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Davis v. Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

February 27, 2018

DAVIS et al.
v.
LOUISIANA-PACIFIC CORP.

          MILLER, P. J., DOYLE, P. J., and REESE, J.

          REESE, JUDGE.

         John Davis was exposed to asbestos while working for Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in Alabama. More than 17 years after he voluntarily resigned and moved to Georgia, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He filed a claim for benefits with the Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation ("Board"), and his surviving spouse and dependent later filed a claim for death and dependent benefits. The administrative law judge ("ALJ") and the State Board found that the Board did not have jurisdiction. The superior court affirmed, and we granted discretionary review. For the reasons set forth, infra, we affirm.

         The parties stipulated to the following facts: In 1984, Davis, an Alabama resident, accepted a job working for Louisiana-Pacific Corporation. After undergoing a pre-employment physical examination in Eufaula, Alabama, Davis worked exclusively at Louisiana-Pacific's Clayton, Alabama facility. In March 1998, he voluntarily resigned and permanently moved to Georgia. Davis was diagnosed with mesothelioma in May 2015 in Georgia, where he exclusively received treatment for his mesothelioma condition.

         Davis filed a claim for benefits with the Board in August 2015. After he died as a result of his condition the following month, his surviving spouse, individually and on behalf of a minor child ("Appellant"), filed a claim for death and dependent benefits. Neither Davis nor Appellant asserted a claim for benefits under Alabama's workers' compensation system.

So long as there is some evidence to support the [Board's] decision, findings of fact by the State Board are conclusive and binding on reviewing courts, and judges lack authority to set aside an award based on disagreement with the Board's conclusions. 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 in superior court and on appeal to this court.[1]

         With these guiding principles in mind, we turn now to Appellant's specific claims of error.

         1. Appellant argues that dismissal was improper because, under Article 8 of the Act, specifically OCGA § 34-9-281, the Board has jurisdiction over all work-related injuries and deaths that occur in Georgia. Although Davis was last exposed to asbestos in Alabama, Appellant contends that his work-related injury did not occur until he was diagnosed and became disabled, both of which took place in Georgia, as did his work-related death. In a related claim of error, Appellant contends that general rules of statutory construction support his interpretation.

         "Where applicable, the Workers' Compensation Act[2] provides the exclusive remedy to an employee injured by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment. "[3] The general provisions of the Act apply to Article 8, "Compensation for Occupational Disease, "[4] "unless otherwise provided in or inconsistent with [that] article."[5] OCGA § 34-9-281 (a), on which Appellant relies, begins:

Where the employer and employee are subject to this chapter, the disablement or death of an employee resulting from an occupational disease shall be treated as the occurrence of an injury by accident; and the employee or, in the case of his or her death, the employee's dependents shall be entitled to compensation as provided by this chapter. The practice and procedure prescribed in this chapter shall apply to all the proceedings under this article except as otherwise provided.[6]

         Thus, OCGA § 34-9-281 (a), by its own terms, applies only where both the employer and employee are subject to the Act.

         In contrast, OCGA § 34-9-242, located in Article 6, "Payment of Compensation, " provides:

In the event an accident occurs while the employee is employed elsewhere than in this state, which accident would entitle him or his dependents to compensation if it had occurred in this state, the employee or his dependents shall be entitled to compensation if the contract of employment was made in this state and if the employer's place of business or the residence of the employee is in this ...

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