Employer must pay worker's husband for prescribed attendant care
Medical Office Management, et al. v. Hardee, No. A09A2381 (Ga. Ct. App. 03/23/10).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's award of attendant care services provided by the injured employee's husband. However, it reversed the portion of the order that required the employer to pay $12,500 in attorney's fees, as the evidence presented to the trial court supported a smaller award.
What it means: The Georgia Workers' Compensation Act does not prohibit an injured worker's spouse or other family members from providing attendant care services. As long as the services are medically prescribed and are reasonably required to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment, the employer can be ordered to pay for such services.
Summary: The employee was struck in the head with a cash box during a robbery and developed significant memory problems and dizziness. Two medical doctors and a clinical psychologist recommended that she receive as workers' compensation benefits attendant care services for eight hours a day, seven days a week. The trial court ordered the employer to reimburse the employee's husband for the attendant care services he provided. It also assessed $5,000 in attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals upheld the order for attendant care services but determined that an intermediate court erred when it increased the attorney's fees to $12,500.
The employer argued that under Georgia case law, an individual is not entitled to compensation for services furnished to a spouse. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, noting that under changes to the workers' compensation laws, an employer must furnish to employees entitled to benefits "other treatment . . . and services which are prescribed by a licensed physician," including nonmedical, at-home attendant care services. Because the attendant care services were medically prescribed, it was the employer's responsibility to pay for them. The court further stated that even if the husband was motivated by love for his wife rather than expectation of compensation, he did not intend to gift his services to the employer.
On the issue of attorney's fees, the Court of Appeals explained that when there is any evidence supporting the original award, a reviewing court should not "substitute itself as the fact finding body."
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May 17, 2010
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