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Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Auth. v. Reid

Supreme Court of Georgia

September 22, 2014

METROPOLITAN ATLANTA RAPID TRANSIT AUTHORITY
v.
REID

Reconsideration denied October 20, 2014.

Certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Georgia -- 323 Ga.App. 523.

Drew, Eckl & Farnham, Harold M. Bagley, John G. Blackmon, Jr., Joseph B. Ward, for appellant.

Todd K. Maziar, for appellee.

Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, Robert P. Potter, Todd A. Brooks, Crystal S. McElrath, Frank T. Putney, Jr., C. Todd Ross, Eric M. Nestale, Thomas M. Finn, Rebecca E. Liner, Joe B. Sartain, Jr., amici curiae.

All the Justices concur.

OPINION

Page 696

Thompson, Chief Justice.

We granted a writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals in Reid v. MARTA, 323 Ga.App. 523 (746 S.E.2d 779) (2013), and posed this question: Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the proper statute of limitations for a claim of statutory penalties for late benefits payments in workers' compensation cases under OCGA § 34-9-221 is the general statute of limitations, OCGA § 34-9-82, rather than the change in condition statute of limitations, OCGA § 34-9-104 (b)? We answer this question affirmatively.

The facts are not in dispute: Following an injury in October 1999, employee filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Shortly [295 Ga. 864] thereafter, employer began paying the first of 32 payments of temporary total disability benefits. Twelve of the payments were untimely under the terms of the workers' compensation statute. Employee returned to work in June 2002 and his benefits were suspended at that time. Nearly eight years later, employee demanded payment of the statutory penalties due on the 12 late payments.[1] Employer refused the demand, asserting it was time barred.

Employee sought a hearing and an order requiring employer to pay the statutory penalties owed. The administrative law judge determined employee's claim was a " change in condition" claim under OCGA § 34-9-104, and, therefore, barred under the two-year limitation period set forth in OCGA § 34-9-104 (b).[2] The Appellate Division of the State Board and the superior court agreed. The Court of Appeals granted employee's application for discretionary review and reversed the judgment of the superior court, finding employee's claim for statutory penalties is not governed by any limitation period and, therefore, is not time barred.[3] Employer sought, and we granted, a writ of certiorari.

Our workers' compensation code contains two limitation periods. One, OCGA § 34-9-82, sets forth the general limitation period for " all issues" claims, i.e., claims in which claimant initially seeks compensation for a work-related injury, and provides that a claim for benefits must be filed within one year of the date of the accident or injury that gives rise to the claim. The other, OCGA § 34-9-104 (b), pertains to a " change in condition" claim. It applies to modifications of prior final decisions and requires that such claims be filed within two years of the last payment of income benefits.[4] See generally

Page 697

Tara Foods v. [295 Ga. 865] Johnson, 297 Ga.App. 16, 18 (676 S.E.2d 418) (2009) (two separate statutes of limitation apply to workers' compensation claims); Baugh-Carroll v. Hosp. Auth. of Randolph County, 248 Ga.App. 591, 594 (545 S.E.2d 690) (2001) (provisions of " all issues" statute of limitation do not apply to " change in ...


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