Worker's request for penalties made 10 years after payments are timely
Case name: Reid v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, No. A13A0814 (Ga. Ct. App. 07/16/13).
Ruling: The Georgia Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to recover penalties from the employer for its failure to timely pay his benefits.
What it means: In Georgia, a worker can recover penalties for an employer's untimely payment of benefits as long as his initial claim was timely filed.
A worker sustained a work-related injury and filed a claim for benefits. The employer began paying him temporary total disability benefits. Of the 32 payments the employer made, 12 of them were untimely under the terms of the workers' compensation law. More than 10 years later, the worker's attorney requested that the employer pay a statutory penalty on the 12 late payments it made to the worker. The employer declined the request, asserting that the demand for payment was barred by the statute of limitations. The Georgia Court of Appeals held that the worker was entitled to recover penalties from the employer.
The court explained that the worker was not seeking to recover the penalties because his physical or economic condition changed. Rather, he sought penalties because they were part of the compensation owed to him as a result of his initial claim. Therefore, the two-year statute of limitations for claims to modify benefits did not apply.
The court found that the one-year statute of limitations for initial claims applied. Since the worker timely filed her initial claim, the court found that any benefits accruing from the claim were not time-barred.
The court pointed out that the worker sought to recover penalties more than 10 years after her benefits were wrongfully withheld by the employer. The court said that any absurdity in the result stemmed from the workers' compensation law's failure to address the time frame in which statutory penalties or other compensation owed by the employee must be pursued by the worker. The court said it was for the legislature, rather than the court, to remedy the statute.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 23, 2013
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