Tara Foods v. Johnson, A08A1628.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtAdams
Citation676 S.E.2d 418,297 Ga. App. 16
PartiesTARA FOODS et al. v. JOHNSON.
Docket NumberNo. A08A1628.,A08A1628.
Decision Date26 March 2009
676 S.E.2d 418
297 Ga. App. 16
No. A08A1628.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
March 26, 2009.
Certiorari Denied June 1, 2009.

[676 S.E.2d 419]

Gardner, Willis, Sweat & Goldsmith, Todd S. Handelman, Albany, for appellants.

Henry A. Hammack, Albany, for appellee.

ADAMS, Judge.

Tara Foods and Sedgwick CMS (hereinafter collectively "Tara Foods") appeal after we granted their application for discretionary review. The application sought review of the superior court's order reversing a decision by the Appellate Division of the State Board of Workers' Compensation. Tara Foods contends the superior court committed legal error in finding that Beverly Johnson made an application for catastrophic designation of her compensable injury within the statutory time frame set out in OCGA § 34-9-104(b). Both the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Appellate Division found that Johnson's claim for catastrophic designation was barred by the statute of limitation, which requires an "application" to be filed within two years of the last payment of income benefits. OCGA § 34-9-104(b). The superior court reversed, finding Johnson made a proper application for catastrophic designation under the statute. Because we find that the ALJ and the Appellate Division correctly interpreted the applicable statute of limitation, we reverse.

[297 Ga. App. 17] Our review in this case is governed by the principle that "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." (Citation omitted.) Trent Tube v. Hurston, 261 Ga.App. 525, 583 S.E.2d 198 (2003). See also Rite-Aid Corp. v. Davis, 280 Ga.App. 522, 523(1), 634 S.E.2d 480 (2006).

The facts in this case are undisputed. On November 30, 1992, Johnson sustained a work injury to her neck, which Tara Foods accepted as compensable. Johnson received income benefits arising from this injury. The last benefit was paid August 28, 2001. In November 2002, Johnson filed a WC-14 form. The form included three options: "notice of claim," "request for hearing," and "request for mediation." Johnson marked the box beside "notice of claim." She also indicated by checking the appropriate line that she was not requesting a hearing. In addition, she checked a line reading, "Add additional issues (see reverse)." On the reverse

676 S.E.2d 420

of the form, Johnson checked the box next to "income benefits" and wrote "TTD1 from 8-28-01 for catastrophic designation." But because Johnson did not request a hearing, no hearing was scheduled and no action was taken with regard to this form.

On August 22, 2005, Johnson filed another WC-14 for payment of certain medical expenses. This time Johnson checked the appropriate box to indicate that she was requesting a hearing, but this filing did not make reference to a catastrophic designation. Before a hearing was held, however, the parties entered into a Consent Agreement resolving the medical benefits issue. Under the agreement, "[t]he parties agree that there are no additional issues before the court at this time and this case can be removed from the active docket." The ALJ approved the Consent Agreement on January 20, 2006.

On September 15, 2006, Johnson filed a third WC-14 indicating that she was requesting a hearing. Johnson also checked the box for "catastrophic designation" and specified "for continued TTD (440 wks paid)." The matter was subsequently scheduled for a hearing before the ALJ. The ALJ determined that because more than two years had elapsed between the last payment of income benefits by Tara Foods and the filing of the third WC-14, the statute of limitation had expired on Johnson's request for catastrophic designation. The Appellate Division adopted the ALJ's decision. As noted above, however, the superior court reversed, finding Johnson made a timely application for catastrophic designation.

[297 Ga. App. 18] Two separate statutes of limitation apply to workers' compensation claims. One applies to "all issues" claims in which a claimant is initially...

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