P. J., COOMER and MARKLE, JJ.
to our grant of a discretionary appeal, Grange Mutual
Casualty Company ("Insurer") appeals the Hall
County Superior Court's decision to affirm the State
Board of Workers' Compensation's ("Board")
ruling that: (1) the Insurer did not sufficiently raise a
void policy defense before the administrative law judge, thus
waiving the defense; and (2) on the merits, the insurance
policy was not void. It also argues the superior court
applied the incorrect standard of review in its analysis of
the Board's findings. For the reasons that follow, we
In reviewing a workers' compensation award, this Court
must construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the
party prevailing before the appellate division. The findings
of the State Board of Workers' Compensation, when
supported by any evidence, are conclusive and binding, and
neither the superior court nor this Court may substitute
itself as a factfinding body in lieu of the State Board.
Laurens County Bd. of Ed. v. Dewberry, 296 Ga.App.
204, 205-06 (674 S.E.2d 73) (2009) (footnotes omitted).
viewed, the record shows that McCormick Enterprises
("Employer") was a small construction company
primarily involved in greenhouse repair and maintenance. In
2014, the Employer had workers' compensation insurance
through Liberty Mutual. When the Employer's insurance
policy came up for renewal, the Employer contacted its
insurance agent and asked if she could find cheaper insurance
with the same coverage. The agent procured a quote from the
completing the insurance application, the agent pulled the
Employer's business information from the previous Liberty
Mutual insurance policy. The Liberty Mutual insurance
application indicated that the Employer performed work
outside the state of Georgia. However, on the Insurer's
application, the agent indicated that the Employer did not
perform work outside of Georgia. The agent testified at the
hearing before the administrative law judge ("ALJ")
that she did not know that the Employer performed work
outside of Georgia, and that she only reviewed the Liberty
Mutual policy - but not the Liberty Mutual application - in
completing the Insurer's application. The agent also
classified the Employer's company as janitorial work on
the Insurer's application based on the Liberty Mutual
policy. She also said that she sent the completed application
to the Employer for review, and that the Employer signed and
returned the application. However, the owner of Employer
testified that the agent emailed him a blank application to
sign and that he did not review or approve the section
indicating that his employees did not travel out of state.
Ultimately, the application submitted to the Insurer
indicated that the Employer provided janitorial services, the
employees did not travel out of state, and that the employees
did not perform any work above 15 feet.
the Insurer issued its policy to the Employer, an employee
had an injury while working in Louisiana on August 8, 2014.
Employer reported the injury to the Insurer. The Insurer
eventually denied the claim because the injury occurred
outside of Georgia. Employer's owner testified that he
then told the agent that she needed to fix that issue with
the insurance policy, because 85% of the Employer's work
was outside of Georgia. The agent denied having that
conversation and testified that she did not know the injury
occurred out of state.
the August 2014 claim, the Insurer conducted an investigation
of the Employer's business operations and its
workers' compensation policy. An underwriter for the
Insurer testified that the Insurer would not have issued the
policy if the application correctly indicated that the
Employer operated in 30 states, because the Insurer was not
licensed to issue policies in all those states. The
underwriter also testified that the Insurer would not have
issued the policy if it had known that the Employer's
employees were cleaning windows at heights over 15 feet.
its investigation after the August 2014 claim, the Insurer
asked its general counsel and outside counsel whether the
Employer's application was so inaccurate that it could
immediately void or rescind the policy. The Insurer
determined that it could not void the policy, so it sent a
cancellation notice on December 18, 2014, with an effective
cancellation date of March 8, 2015. The Insurer told the
Employer that it was canceling the policy due to the
Employer's out-of-state operations, and gave the Employer
approximately 90 days to find alternative coverage.
March 7, 2015, Adam Bennett (the "Employee") was
working for the Employer. He was hired for a snow-removal job
in New York. The Employee was traveling to the job as a
passenger in an Employer-owned truck. While en route, the
truck was involved in an automobile accident. The Employee
suffered extensive injuries to his skull and back. He then
filed this worker's compensation claim.
the ALJ hearing, Insurer submitted a brief, in which it
argued, among other things, that: (1) its policy did not
cover out-of-state work injuries; (2) Employer's owner
was aware of the terms of the Insurer's policy yet did
not advise the Insurer of his need for multi-state coverage;
and (3) the Insurer would not have issued the policy if it
had received an accurate description of the Employer's
found that the Insurer's policy covered the
Employee's injury. Specifically, it found that the
Insurer, in order to limit coverage to only accidents in
Georgia, was required to amend or endorse the policy with
that limitation. When the Insurer listed "Georgia"
on the policy, the Insurer was agreeing to pay workers'
compensation claims under the laws of Georgia. And, under
Georgia law, the Employee's out-of-state injuries were
compensable. The ALJ declined to resolve the conflicts in the
testimony between the Employer and the Agent regarding the
insurance application process because the main issue for
resolution was whether the policy covered the Employee on
March 7, 2015. That outcome was determined by the
Insurer's action on December 18, 2017 without regard to
the parties' actions during the application process.
Insurer then appealed the ALJ's decision to the Board. In
its brief to the Board, the Insurer argued, among other
things, that the insurance policy was void under OCGA §
33-24-7 due to the Employer's and the Agent's false
representations on the application. The Board upheld the
ALJ's finding that the Insurer's policy covered the
Employee's injury. Using the same logic employed by the
ALJ, the Board also found that it did ...