Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case brought by a man who was injured while he was grocery shopping on his personal time. The injured employee claimed that he was a “continuous employee” because his job required that he stay in a hotel away from his home. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the injured worker was not a continuous employee.
The Facts of the Case
The injured worker was employed by a plumbing company based in Augusta, Georgia. Since the employee did not have a residence in Augusta, the employer provided the employee with a hotel room. While the employee only worked Monday through Friday, the employer allowed the employee to stay in the room over the weekend because the employee was having car trouble and found it financially burdensome to travel back home over the weekends.
One Sunday, the employee was grocery shopping when he tripped and fell, injuring his ankle. The employee was not working that day, and he was not on call. The employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation, claiming that he was a continuous employee.
Generally speaking, workers’ compensation claims are only available for injuries that occur while at work and in the performance of work-related duties. However, there is an exception for continuous employees. Georgia law defines a continuous employee as one “who is required by his employment to lodge and work within an area geographically limited by the necessity of being available for work on the employer’s job site.”
The Case Goes Through Several Appeals
Initially, the Administrative Law Judge hearing the case determined that the employee was a continuous employee and awarded benefits. However, the employer appealed the decision to the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, and the case was reversed. That court determined the employee “primarily remained in Augusta over the weekend, not for any employment-related reasons, but due to personal transportation and financial constraints.”
The plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, which reversed the findings of the Appellate Division. The Superior Court disagreed with the Appellate Division’s analysis, determining that the employee had to be in Augusta on Sunday to prepare for work the following morning.
The employer then appealed to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, which again reversed the case. The court explained that the Superior Court was bound by the factual determinations made by the Appellate Division, as long as the findings were supported by at least some evidence. The court determined that the Superior Court was not entitled to make its own “contradictory factual findings” because there was some evidence supporting the Appellate Division’s findings.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Workplace Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia workplace accident, you may be able to obtain temporary or long-term workers’ compensation benefits. The worker’s compensation program is designed to allow injured workers to seek compensation while they recover from workplace injuries. However, as the above case illustrates, employers will occasionally dispute claims. The skilled workers’ compensation attorneys at J. Franklin Burns, P.C. have extensive experience handling a wide array of workers’ compensation claims throughout Georgia. Call 404-303-7770 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.