Nov 12, 2015

Georgia Appeals Court Overturns Denial of Hurt Employee’s Workers’ Compensation Benefits Request

In
Burdette v. Chandler Telecom, LLC, a Georgia employee was apparently hurt when he fell from a cellular telephone
tower while working for a telecommunications company. As a result of his
serious injuries, the man sought workers’ compensation benefits
from his employer. Following a hearing before an administrative law judge
and an appeal to the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation
(the “Board”), the man’s request for benefits was denied.
According to the Board, the man was barred from receiving workers’
compensation benefits because he was injured while executing a controlled
descent in violation of company policy.

On appeal before the Court of Appeals of Georgia, Third Division, the employee
claimed the Board committed error when it found that he was ineligible
to recover workers’ compensation benefits because his descent constituted
willful misconduct under OCGA § 34-9-17(a). The worker also argued
the administrative law judge who presided over his initial benefits hearing
made several evidentiary rulings in error.

The appellate court first stated it was required to view the evidence
included in the record in the light most favorable to the hurt worker.
Next, the court examined the facts of the case. After that, the court
turned to the injured worker’s arguments on appeal.

According to the Court of Appeals, whether a Georgia worker committed willful
misconduct is a question of fact to be determined by the Board. In addition,
the court said the Board’s findings regarding such questions are
not subject to reversal as long as its determinations are supported by
the evidence. The appellate court then examined the language included
in § 34-9-17(a).

The court stated an employee’s mere violation or disregard of a rule
does not rise to the level of willful misconduct within the meaning of
the law. Instead, a willful or intentional violation is required. The
court added that a worker’s spur of the moment act, like that in
the man’s case, was not enough to qualify as willful misconduct
unless it was deliberately performed in violation of work orders. Ultimately,
the court held the man’s employer failed to establish that the mere
fact that the man executed a controlled descent constituted willful misconduct,
based on the facts of the case.

Since the employee’s workers’ compensation claim was not barred
as a result of his alleged willful misconduct, the appeals court overturned
the Board’s findings. Additionally, the Court of Appeals of Georgia,
Third Division, ruled that it did not need to address the employee’s
claims regarding the administrative law judge’s evidentiary findings.

If you or someone you love was hurt at a Georgia workplace, you are advised
to discuss your right to receive compensation for your injuries with an
experienced Atlanta
workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you are able. To schedule a confidential consultation
with a caring Fulton County workers’ compensation lawyer today,
do not hesitate to call the Law Offices of Nathaniel F. Hansford at (770)
922-3660 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Burdette v. Chandler Telecom, LLC, Ga: Court of Appeals 2015

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