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Ward v. Pre-Engineer Systems

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 15, 2014

WARD
v.
PRE-ENGINEER SYSTEMS et al

Cert. applied for.

Workers' compensation. Hall Superior Court. Before Judge Burroughs, pro hac vice.

Stow, Garvin & Glenn, Nancy Glenn, for appellant.

Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, Timothy C. Lemke, for appellees.

MCFADDEN, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.

OPINION

McFadden, Judge.

John Ward appeals from a superior court order reversing the decision of the State Board of Workers' Compensation granting his request for nurse case management services. The court concluded tat Ward was not entitled to such services because they were not an authorized workers' compensation benefit at the time of his injury. We reverse.

In 1973, Ward was injured when he fell approximately 40 feet while working on a construction site. He suffered various injuries from the fall, including a traumatic brain injury that has resulted in ongoing cognitive impairment. The employer, Pre-Engineer Systems,[1] and its insurer have paid for various workers' compensation benefits arising from the fall. Among other things, Ward received rehabilitation services from 1999 to 2009, when those services were suspended. In 2011, Ward filed a request to reinstate the rehabilitation services. The request was denied in an administrative order, and Ward appealed, seeking a hearing before an administrative law judge.

At the outset of the evidentiary hearing, the administrative law judge noted that Ward was seeking services in the form of nurse case management and that the employer argued that there was no legal authority to award those services at the time of the injury in 1973. Ward presented evidence of

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his complex medical needs and his declining cognitive abilities, which has resulted in his wife being appointed as his permanent guardian. The administrative law judge found that the evidence clearly and overwhelmingly demonstrated that Ward has had many difficulties with his medical treatment and " is entitled to the designation of a rehab supplier/nurse case manager to assist the employee with medical treatment in this claim." In reaching this conclusion, the administrative law judge, among other things, rejected the employer's argument that Ward is not entitled to such services because they were not listed as a benefit at the time of the injury in 1973, and " were not granted as a workers' compensation benefit until 1975."

The employer appealed the decision to the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation, which upheld the award and adopted the administrative law judge's findings and conclusions [328 Ga.App. 309] as its own. The employer then appealed to the superior court, which reversed the board's decision, concluding that Ward " is not entitled to receive nurse case management services, because this service was not available under the workers' compensation laws in Georgia on the date of the Claimant's work related accident in 1973." We granted Ward's application for discretionary review, and this appeal followed.

Ward asserts that the superior court erred in holding that he is not entitled to nurse case management services on the ground that such benefit was not available ...


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