COVID-19 Resource Center

08/05/2021

Georgia Office Notches Another Workers’ Compensation Victory at the Georgia Court of Appeals

Managing partner Benjamin Leonard and senior associate Matthew Pittman of the firm’s Atlanta office obtained a second favorable decision in as many weeks at the Georgia Court of Appeals. In so doing, the team obtained a reversal of an unfavorable decision from Superior Court, persuading the Court of Appeals that the Superior Court applied the wrong standard of review when it found for the employee below.

The underlying case involved a catastrophic claim with accepted lifetime benefits for severe lower extremity and lumbar injuries sustained in a 2008 accident. Thereafter, in 2016, the employee began to develop pronounced cervical issues.  These conditions were denied by the firm client as being unrelated to the original accident.  The employee eventually requested a hearing before the State Board to ask that the court find the cervical condition as being related to the 2008 accident.   The sitting Judge ruled in the employee’s favor, and the employer/insurer appealed.

The State Board’s Appellate Division decided there was not sufficient evidence to support a causal relationship between the 2008 work accident and the cervical injury, thus reversing the ruling below. The State Board also awarded the employer a change of physician to a new pain management physician because the previous pain management physician had unnecessarily prescribed benzodiazepines and opioids.

While the Superior did not disturb the change in physician decision from the State Board, it did apply a de novo evidentiary standard of review, which allowed it to make new findings of fact and law.  It was the application of this standard that the Court of Appeals concluded was legal error, and used as a basis to reverse the decision of the Superior Court.  

The Court of Appeals reaffirmed prior precedent that a Superior Court must accept factual conclusions from the State Board as its own when there is evidence to support the decision from the State Board’s Appellate Division. In reversing the Superior Court’s decision, the Court of Appeals returned to the decision of the Appellate Division in favor of the employer in order to finalize the Award.

For more information, please contact Matthew Pittman at mpittman@c-wlaw.com.