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Lane v. Williams Plant Servs.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 18, 2014

LANE
v.
WILLIAMS PLANT SERVICES et al

Reconsideration denied December 16, 2014 -- Cert. applied for.

Workers' compensation. Appling Superior Court. Before Judge Wilkes.

Judgment affirmed in part and vacated in part, and case remanded with direction.

Morgan & Morgan, Phillip M. Eddings, for appellant.

McClain & Merritt, Jeffrey E. Hickcox, for appellees.

BOGGS, Judge. Andrews, P. J., Barnes, P. J., Doyle, P. J., Miller, Dillard, McFadden, Ray, Branch and McMillian, JJ., concur. Phipps, C. J., and Ellington, P. J., concur in judgment only.

OPINION

Page 483

Boggs, Judge.

In this discretionary appeal, Kenneth Lane, Sr., appeals from the superior court order affirming the decision of the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation (" Appellate Division" ), which had affirmed the decision of an administrative law judge (" ALJ" ). Lane contends that the superior court erred (1) by concluding that no legal error resulted from the Appellate Division's determination that his request to reinstate income benefits was barred by the two-year statute of limitation and (2) in concluding that the Appellate Division did not err by finding that his employer was not liable for additional medical expenses. For the reasons explained below, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand this case for additional findings.

In the absence of legal error, the factual findings of the Board must be affirmed by the superior court and by the Court of Appeals when supported by any evidence in the administrative record. Erroneous applications of law to undisputed facts, as well as decisions based on erroneous theories of law, however, are subject to the de novo standard of review.

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) MARTA v. Thompson, 326 Ga.App. 631 (757 S.E.2d 228) (2014). " Where statutory provisions are ambiguous, courts should give great weight to the interpretation adopted by the administrative agency charged with enforcing the statute. [Cit.]" Cook v. Glover, 295 Ga. 495, 500 (761 S.E.2d 267) (2014). Courts should defer to an " agency's interpretation so long as it [330 Ga.App. 417] comports with legislative intent and is reasonable." Id. This deference is provided to the Workers' Compensation Board's construction of workers' compensation statutes. See MARTA v. Reid, 295 Ga. 863, 867, n. 6 (763 S.E.2d 695) (2014).

So viewed, the record shows that Lane received a workers' compensation award in 2008 for a low back injury. In March 2010, Lane's employer suspended his income benefits and mailed its last payment of benefits (through March 10, 2010) to him before March 9, 2010.[1] On March 9, 2010, Lane moved for an " interlocutory recommencement of income benefits" in which he contended that " benefits were improperly suspended." [2] The ALJ denied this motion based upon its determination

Page 484

that there is not enough evidence on which to order a recommencement of income benefits. The only evidence presented was an old medical record that had been attached to a WC-104 filed the year before. ... As a second reason for denying the request, I determine that this issue would be best handled by evidentiary hearing.

Despite this suggestion, Lane took no further action for almost two years. Then, on March 13, 2012, he filed a WC-14 notice of claim requesting a hearing on his request for reinstatement of income benefits from " July 1, 2010 and continuing." Following a hearing, the ALJ issued an order concluding that Lane's request for reinstatement ...


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