Case name: Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Roark, et al., No. A09A0550 (Ga. Ct. App. 04/23/09).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the carrier did not have subrogation rights to an injured worker's third-party recovery since his compensation benefits were not paid under Georgia law.
What it means: Under Georgia law, if an out-of-state employee is injured in the state and eligible for workers' comp benefits, then the carrier's subrogation claim is governed by Georgia law and the employee "must be made whole" before the carrier may recover from a third-party award.
A Tennessee truck driver was injured in the scope of his employment in an accident in Georgia. The Tennessee employer's carrier paid the driver $79,007 in workers' comp benefits. The driver and his wife later sued the other driver for personal injuries and loss of consortium in a Georgia court and agreed to settle the case for $80,000. The insurance carrier and the driver disagreed over whether Georgia or Tennessee subrogation law governed, as the carrier sought to impose a lien on the driver's recovery from the Georgia suit. The carrier argued that under Tennessee law a carrier who has paid workers' compensation benefits must be reimbursed before the injured party is entitled to recover from a third party.
The Court of Appeals held that Georgia's law governed the subrogation issue. It pointed out that the state supreme court held Georgia law applies when the injury occurs in Georgia even if the injured worker travels from another state and may be eligible for workers' comp benefits in another state.
The Court of Appeals held that since the driver was injured and eligible for workers' comp benefits in Georgia, the carrier's subrogation claim was governed by Georgia law. It therefore upheld the finding that the carrier could not impose a lien on the driver's award.
June 18, 2009
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