SAVE-A-LOT FOOD STORES et al.
Workers' compensation. Bibb Superior Court. Before Judge Ennis.
Drew Eckl & Farnham, John G. Blackmon, Jr., Christopher K. Gifford, for appellants.
Buzzell, Graham & Welsh, Neal B. Graham, for appellee.
This appeal is by an employer from a superior court order reversing an administrative denial of workers' compensation benefits to an employee. Although the superior court ruled that the State Board of Workers' Compensation held the employee to an unfairly heightened standard of proof, a review of the decisions of the appellate division and the administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) shows otherwise. Accordingly, we reverse.
1. Facts and procedural posture.
On appeal from an award of the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation, this [c]ourt examines the record to see if there is competent evidence to support the award and construes the evidence in a light most favorable to the prevailing party. It is axiomatic that the [331 Ga.App. 518] findings of the State Board of Workers' Compensation, when supported by any evidence, are conclusive and binding, and that neither the superior court nor this [c]ourt has any authority to substitute itself as a fact finding body in lieu of the [b]oard. However, erroneous applications of law to undisputed facts, as well as decisions based on erroneous theories of law, are subject to the de novo standard of review.
Bonner-Hill v. Southland Waste Systems, 330 Ga.App. 151, 153 (767 S.E.2d 803) (2014) (citations and punctuation omitted).
The record shows that James Amos sought workers' compensation benefits, claiming that he was disabled as the result of a work-related stroke. His employer, Save-A-Lot Food Stores, and its workers' compensation carrier, Old Republic Insurance Company (collectively, " Save-A-Lot" ), controverted the claim. A hearing on Amos' claim was
held before an ALJ.
At the hearing, Amos testified that on August 5, 2011, he was at work when he became dizzy and flushed while unloading pallets of meat weighing between 15 and 60 pounds. He took a short break and then continued working, but found himself miscounting items, losing his balance and becoming confused. He had a severe headache, water was dripping from his right eye, and the left side of his body felt weak. Amos was driven to the hospital, where he was admitted for three days.
Amos' family doctor, Melanie Shorter, opined that Amos had suffered a stroke and that job-related stress was a contributing factor that led to it. She also identified Amos' tobacco use, uncontrolled diabetes, hypoadenia, inactivity, and family history as other possible factors. Dr. Michael Frankel, a neurologist who specializes in strokes and is the director of a hospital stroke and neuroscience center, testified that Amos' magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing and other medical records showed no evidence of a stroke. Dr. Frankel further testified that it is not clear whether stress is a real factor for stroke and that Amos had most of the other known significant risk factors for stroke, including diabetes, family history and smoking. Dr. Abdul Qadir, another neurologist who had treated Amos, found no objective evidence that he had suffered a stroke and that ...