The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed a decision rendered by the Superior Court of Lowndes County on the issue of appellate jurisdiction.  The case at bar was Strickland v. Crossmark, Georgia Court of Appeals, A09A0491 (06/26/09).

In this case, the claimant was an employee at Wal-Mart who was tasked with stocking shelves in a store located in Valdosta, Georgia.  In order to perform this job, she was using a ladder.  The claimant, who had pre-existing back problems, missed a step on the ladder and experienced lower back pain.  This injury allegedly occurred between 11:00 and 11:30 in the morning.  However, the Employer presented evidence that the claimant had not signed in until noon that day.   Moreover, the Employer presented other contradictory evidence to the claimant’s case.  The presiding administrative law judge denied the claimant’s claim for benefits, as well as her claim for attorney’s fees.

Initially, Employer/Insurer voluntarily commenced benefits, but later controverted the claim.  The claimant contested the controvert on the grounds that the Employer/Insurer failed to pay her all compensation due at the time of filing, in violation of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-221.

The claimant successfully appealed the ruling and the Appellate Division vacated the decision and remanded the matter for additional proceedings on the procedural issues surrounding the controvert.  The Employer/Insurer filed an appeal to the Superior Court, who reversed and remanded the case back to the Appellate Division to review only the issues raised before the trial administrative law judge.  As a result, the claimant requested assistance from the Court of Appeals to review the Superior Court’s order and sought a reinstatement of the Appellate Division’s decision.  The claimant argued that the Superior Court did not have jurisdiction and prematurely decided the matter on the merits.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the claimant on the procedural issue as the State Board’s decision was not a “final award” as mandated by law.  The Court held that the decision of the Appellate Division remanding the case to the trial division was “pending.”  Hence, the Superior Court should have declined to review the Employer/Insurer’s appeal as “such an interlocutory appeal is unauthorized under the Workers’ Compensation Act.”

For a copy of this case or for more information, please feel free to contact the Ramos Law Firm.