Worker entitled to accessible home, but not necessarily on his own land
Southern Concrete/Watkins Associated Industries, Inc. et al. v. Spires, No. A10A1981 (Ga. Ct. App. 03/22/11).
Ruling: In a case of first impression, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the employer was required to construct a wheelchair-accessible home for an employee but had the right to select the home's location.
What it means: In Georgia, if an employer is ordered to build a wheelchair-accessible home for an injured worker, it may do so on a location of its choice. The home does not have to be built on property already owned by the worker.
Summary: A welder was severely injured while working on the construction of a bridge. The incident left him a paraplegic. After his injury, the employer modified his home to accommodate his physical limitations. Thereafter, the house became uninhabitable due to a leaky roof, sewage overflow into the septic leach field, and sewage contaminating the well water. Consequently, the house was condemned. The employer paid for the worker and his wife to stay in a hotel.
The parties agreed that the employer should provide the worker with a wheelchair-accessible home, but they did not agree to where it should be built or the manner of title. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the employer could build the home in a location of its choice and the worker would receive a life estate.
The worker argued that the new home should be built on the land he already owned. The court said the home could be built on the worker's property after the worker sold the property to the employer. The court noted that the worker declined to participate in the development of a housing plan that took the worker and his wife off their land.
The worker's catastrophic rehabilitation supplier said granting him title to the new home was not necessary to allow the worker to return to the least restrictive lifestyle possible. The court said that even if the house had been medically prescribed, the employer was not required to provide a medical prescription beyond the worker's life.
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April 18, 2011
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