- 03.28.2019Georgia Workers’ Compensation Legislative Update: Senate Bill 135 Passes the House of Representatives
On March 28, 2019, Senate Bill 135 passed the House of Representatives, after previously being passed in the Senate, and awaits Governor Brian Kemp’s signature before officially becoming law.
In a closely watched case, the Supreme Court of Georgia recently held that an insurer’s duty to settle arises only when the injured party presents a valid offer to settle within the insured’s policy limits. In First Acceptance Insurance Co. of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes, No. S18G0517, the court unanimously reversed the Georgia Court of Appeals and reinstated a summary judgment ruling in favor of First Acceptance, finding that the insurer did not act negligently or in bad faith as a matter of law.
The Georgia Legislature is currently considering a bill that will have a substantial impact on workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia. The bill, if passed, would result in an increase in the temporary total disability rate to $675 per week and the temporary partial disability rate to $450 per week. Additionally, the bill proposes some limits to the 400-week cap in medical benefits to provide for replacement and maintenance of items such as prosthetics, spinal cord stimulators, pain pumps or certain types of durable medical equipment, provided that the item or service was furnished within 400 weeks of the date of the injury.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has affirmed and relied upon the bright-line rule established in the recent case of Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation, which was litigated by Swift Currie partner Chad Harris through his representation of State Farm. In Frett, the Court of Appeals concluded the ingress/egress rule does not apply to accidents and injuries occurring on regularly scheduled breaks where the employee is free to pursue personal matters. In a decision rendered on Feb. 26, 2019, in Daniel v. Bremen-Bowdon Investment Co., the Court of Appeals applied the ruling in Frett and found the claimant’s injuries are not compensable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
A recent ruling by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held a district court may dismiss a case with prejudice when a plaintiff improperly uses “shotgun pleadings.”
In Jackson v. Bank of America, N.A., 898 F.3d 1348 (11th Cir. 2018), the plaintiffs filed suit against their mortgage lender and loan servicer after the foreclosure of their home. The complaint included 14 causes of action which were vague and not defendant-specific.
A recent ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals clarified whether the ingress and egress rule applies to the scheduled break exception. The court previously determined an injury does not arise out of and in the course of an employee’s employment while on a scheduled break where the employee is free to use the time as he chooses even if he remains on the employer’s premises. However, the court also previously established the ingress and egress rule, which indicates an injury occurring within a reasonable period of time while the employee is on the employer’s premises preparing to begin or end work does arise out of and in the course of his employment.
A recent ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed a plaintiff’s burden in product liability cases that allege a design defect.
In Sheffield v. Conair, a woman fell asleep while lying on a new heating pad. She woke up with her bed in flames. The fire chief determined the fire started near the heating pad, but could not say what caused the fire. The trial court granted the heating pad manufacturer’s Motion for Summary Judgment, finding the plaintiff had not put forth evidence that the heating pad was defective.
In a pending wrongful death lawsuit arising out of a recreational boat incident on Lake Burton (located in North Georgia), the Georgia Court of Appeals accepted an interlocutory appeal on the issue of the emotional distress claims of three children who witnessed the death of another child in their family. The appeal is captioned Malibu Boats, LLC v. Batchelder.
FILE THE 1 IN EVERY ONE
Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the Board will require that a WC-1 be filed in all claims, regardless of whether income benefits are paid or not. Previously, a WC-1 was not required to be filed in “medical only” claims. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-12(a), the WC-1 must be filed within 10 days of the employer’s notice of the accident. While this change does not take effect for another six months, Swift Currie recommends getting into the habit of doing so now so that it is a regular practice by Jan. 1, 2019. Keep in mind that failure to file Board forms, including the WC-1, could subject you to attorney’s fees or civil penalties. Please see the link below to download a sample WC-1 form.
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