Apr 8, 2013

Georgia Supreme Court Ruling on Workers’ Compensation Case

The Georgia Supreme Court held in Arby’s Restaurant Group, Inc., et al. v. McRae that OCGA § 34-9-207 does not prohibit ex parte communication between the injured worker and her employer or a representative of the employer in order to receive Workers Compensation benefits.

The case stems of a 2006 incident in which Ms. McRae, an employee of Arby’s Restaurant received third-degree burns to her esophagus as a result of accidentally drinking a cup of lye. The cup of lye was left in the break room and was similar to the one she was drinking from. Arby’s Restaurant Group began paying Ms. McRae her benefits. Ms. McRae’s treating physician determined that she received a 65% partial disability impairment. Attorneys for Arby’s requested an ex parte conference with Ms. McRae’s physician to discuss her partial disability impairment rating but her physician would not meet them unless his patient or her attorneys were present. Arby’s then filed a request to compel Ms. McRae to authorize her physician to meet with Arby’s representatives. Ms. McRae refused to sign the order and the State Board of Workers Compensation subsequently removed her hearing request.

The court ruled that under Georgia law, an employer in a workers’ compensation case is permitted to inquire from any physician who has examined, treated, or tested the injured worker “all information and records related to the examination, treatment, testing, or consultation concerning the employee OCGA § 34-9-207(a)) .” Therefore, the court held that the State Board acted within its discretion.

So how does this decision affect your case? It adversely affects injured workers as employer and/ or insurer representatives can speak with the treating physician in order to gain information about their treatment and health without the injured worker or his/or attorney present.