Royal Indem. Co. v. Agnew

Citation18 S.E.2d 57,66 Ga.App. 377
Decision Date24 October 1941
Docket Number28956.
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)

Rehearing Denied Dec. 16, 1941.

Syllabus by the Court.

Hirsch Smith & Kilpatrick, Deveraux F. McClatchey, and W. B Cody, all of Atlanta, for plaintiffs in error.

Edward B. Lovell, of Atlanta, for defendant in error.

MacINTYRE Judge.

One year, five months, and eighteen days passed between the date of the alleged accident on which this claim was based and the date of the filing of the claim with the Industrial Board. The

claimant contends that the one-year statute of limitations within which to file his claim was tolled by reason of mental incompetency as provided for in Code, § 114-306: "No limitation of time provided in this Title for the giving of notice or making claim shall run against any person who is mentally incompetent or a minor dependent, as long as he has no guardian or trustee, or to a person who proceeds in good faith against a corporation supposed to have a legal entity but which is proved to be defunct by reason of the expiration of its charter." (Italics ours.) Code, § 114-305 provides in part: "The right to compensation under this Title shall be forever barred unless a claim is filed with the Department of Industrial Relations within one year after the accident, and, if death results from the accident, unless a claim therefor is filed with the Department within one year thereafter."

In the absence of anything in the workmen's compensation act to indicate that anything different was intended, the term "mentally incompetent," as used in the statute exempting such person from the application of the limitation provision, Code, § 114-305, supra, must be given the same scope and meaning as that which is accorded to it, or words of similar import, in other statutes which deal with the status of persons generally. 71 C.J. 1023, § 798. With reference to the tolling of the statute of limitations generally, our Code, § 3-801, provides: "Infants, idiots, or insane persons, or persons imprisoned, who are such when the cause of action shall have accrued, shall be entitled to the same time, after the disability shall have been removed, to bring an action, as is prescribed for other persons." The section immediately following provides: "If either of the foregoing disabilities shall happen after the right of action shall have accrued, and shall not be voluntarily caused or undertaken by the person claiming the benefit thereof, the limitation shall cease to operate during its continuance." Code, 3-802. Thus, the statute is tolled whether the disability existed at the time of the accrual of the cause of action or subsequently thereto.

There is nothing in the act indicating that a different meaning was to be given it, and in the light of the context of section 114-306 and the section immediately following it, we think the lawmakers, in framing the act, had distinctly in mind the provisions of our Code dealing with persons for whom a guardian or trustee (who is but a guardian of property) may be appointed. Francisco v. Industrial Acc. Comm., 192 Cal. 635, 221 P. 373, 375. Upon referring to our Code, we find that a guardian may be appointed for "insane persons, deaf and dumb persons when incapable of managing their estates, habitual drunkards, and persons imbecile from old age or other cause and incapable of managing their estates." Code § 49-601. It also appears that a guardian for property (a trustee) may be appointed for "any minor or person non compos mentis." Code, § 108-114. Black's Law Dictionary indicates that insane persons and persons non compos mentis are synonymous, and defines both as persons "of unsound mind." Our Code, § 102-103, indicates the same and provides: "Lunatic, Insane, or Non Compos Mentis, each includes all persons of unsound mind." Thus we come to the query, what is meant by insane persons or persons non compos mentis? Here again we refer to our Code under the title "Persons," but this does not matter, for any portion of a body of laws may well be invoked to ascertain the meaning of words and phrases used in another part. Furthermore, this section which we are about to quote deals with the status of persons generally, and may be referred to in determining the intention of the legislature in using the phrase "mentally incompetent." Gray v. Obear, 59 Ga. 675, 680. Code, § 79-209, provides: "All persons non compos mentis, either from birth or from causes accruing subsequently, constantly or periodically, or from age, infirmity, drunkenness, or who are otherwise incapable of managing their affairs, may have their persons and estates, or either of them, placed in the control of guardians. Such persons retain all the rights of citizens which they have the capacity to enjoy, and which are compatible with their situation." It may be noted that this section, while it provides for the taking away of a citizen's property, yet reserves to him the general rights of citizenship.

From a consideration of the Code sections cited above it is clear that the Code defines insane persons, or persons non compos mentis, or as applied to the facts of this case, persons "mentally incompetent," as meaning persons with unsoundness of mind in many degrees. In Gray v. Obear, supra, 59 Ga. at page 680, the court treated such condition of mind as being of three degrees as follows: 1. One who is so unsound as to be sent to an asylum. 2. Another so unsound as to have a guardian of his property and of his person. 3. Another so unsound as to have a guardian only of his property, to see that it is not wasted; that is, a trustee. It must be borne in mind that under such definition of "mentally incompetency" no account is taken of physical infirmities, yet it is certain that when a person becomes mentally disabled (incompetent) from whatever cause the disability may arise, whether from sickness, vice, casualty, or old age, he is equally a fit and necessary object of guardianship and protection. Matter of James Barker, 2 Johns. Ch., N.Y., 232, 233. In other words, the test as to whether the claimant is so "mentally incompetent" as to toll the running of the statute of limitations, is this: is his mind so unsound, or is he so weak in his mind, or so imbecile, no matter from what cause, that he can not manage the ordinary affairs of life?

The question in the instant case is not whether Agnew, the claimant, is such an idiot or lunatic or so insane that he ought to be sent to the asylum, or even have a guardian for his person, but, was he, during the year 1939 (a period of time sufficiently long to avoid the bar of the statute of limitations), so "mentally incompetent" (non compos mentis or insane), so unsound in mind, or so imbecile in intellect, that he could not manage his ordinary affairs of life? If there be such a degree of unsoundness of mind or imbecility as to incapacitate one from managing the ordinary business of life, it will authorize the board to find that the claimant was "mentally incompetent," and thus to find that the statute was tolled during the period of time the claimant is "mentally incompetent" and until the disability shall have been removed. Code, § 3-801; Gray v. Obear, supra, 59 Ga. at 679(2).

The director found in favor of the claimant. The Industrial Board affirmed the award and the judge of the superior court overruled the appeal. The defendants excepted.

The ...

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    ...124 Ga.App. 22, 23(4), 183 S.E.2d 63 (1971); Barnett v. Ashley, 89 Ga.App. 679, 682(1), 81 S.E.2d 11 (1954); Royal Indem. Co. v. Agnew, 66 Ga. App. 377, 380(1), 18 S.E.2d 57 For purposes of summary judgment, plaintiff's claim of incompetency to function on a day-to-day basis so as to toll t......
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