Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Georgia Supreme Court
Inagawa v. Fayette County
Jamie Inagawa, the Solicitor-General of Fayette County, filed a mandamus action against Fayette County and its Commissioners in their official capacities asserting that since July 1, 2007 his compensation had been incorrectly calculated. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to Inagawa and partial summary judgment to the County, and each party appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the trial court correctly held that Inagawa was improperly compensated beginning in July 2007. The Court disagreed with the trial court's conclusion that the County properly compensated Inagawa as of January 1, 2009 in accordance with an amended local law, because the Court found that amendment invalid. Accordingly, the Court reversed in part and affirmed in part. View "Inagawa v. Fayette County" on Justia Law
Smith v. Ellis
The issue before the Supreme Court was whether an employee who filed an injury claim against his employer under the State Workers' Compensation Act and receives compensation in exchange for a "no liability" settlement with his employer that is approved by the State Board of Workers' Compensation may then turn around and sue the co-employee who caused the injury in a tort action. Ten years ago, the Court of Appeals answered this question no, holding that the Act's exclusive remedy provision bars such a lawsuit based on the same injury for which the employee has already received a remedy. In this appeal, however, the Court of Appeals was equally divided as to whether the underlying case law should be overruled, and the case was sent to the Supreme Court for resolution. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that "Ridley" was correctly decided. Thus, appellant Joseph Smith, having previously entered a Board-approved settlement with his employer in exchange for compensation, would be barred from suing appellee John Ellis for the same injury in tort if Ellis qualified as an "employee of the same employer" as Smith, rather than a "third-party tort-feasor," as those phrases are used in the applicable statutory authority. However, the evidence did not establish that Ellis was acting as "an employee of the same employer" in the course of his employment, at the time he injured Smith. The trial court therefore erred in granting summary judgment to Ellis, and that judgment was reversed. View "Smith v. Ellis" on Justia Law
Scott v. Shaw Industries, Inc.
The Court of Appeals held that the superior court improperly affirmed a damages award to Petitioner Valencia Scott on her workers' compensation claim because the ALJ erred in ruling Petitioner's deniability resulted from a fictional new accident as opposed to a change in condition, and that her claim for total temporary disability was thus not barred by the applicable statute of limitation. The Supreme Court granted review of the case to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a "fictional new accident" could not apply to situations where an employee who suffered a compensable injury and subsequently suffers a progressive worsening of that condition whereby she must cease working completely. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Petitioner sustained a foot injury and was awarded compensation. She subsequently returned to work in a new position that required no strenuous activity, but she developed knee and gait problems as a result of the wear and tear of ordinary life. This gradual worsening constituted a change of condition, not a new accident. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's decision.
Owens et al. v. City of Greenville, et al.
Johnnie Owens, acting City Clerk, and Darryl Williams, the acting Chief of Police, sued the City and the Mayor, in both is official and individual capacities, for wrongful termination and concomitant damages. The trial court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case because it presented a purely political question. In the alternative, the trial court granted the City's and the Mayor's motions for summary judgment, finding, among other things, that, despite the Mayor's actions, the terms of Owens and Williams had naturally expired in accordance with the City Charter. Owens and Williams appealed. Because the trial court had proper jurisdiction over the case, questions of material fact remained, and questions of law remained unreached by the trial court. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment.
Ellis et al. v. Caldwell
The County appealed from the grant of a writ of mandamus ordering it to reinstate appellee to his former position as a fire captain and awarding him back pay and costs of litigation. The court held that because appellee had a clear legal right to reinstatement, a right violated by the County's steadfast refusal to abide by the order of the hearing officer, as affirmed by the Council on appeal, mandamus was properly granted. The court also approved the monetary award fashioned by the trial court to make appellee whole for the full amount of salary he was denied from the date of his wrongful termination. The court further held that the record showed that the County affirmatively waived its right to a hearing on the issue of attorney fees.
CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Smith
Plaintiff brought a slip and fall action against CSX under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 et seq., which provided a federal tort remedy for interstate railroad employees who were injured while working within the scope of their employment. At issue was whether 29 C.F.R. 1910.24(f) applied to an indoor office building and whether the trial court erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence of, and determine whether, plaintiff was out of service because he was within the broad scope of protection of the FELA. The court held that, because the requirement of section 1910.24(f) that the nosings be of nonslip finish was applicable to the stairs in CSX's office building, was raised by the evidence, and was not otherwise covered in the jury instructions, the trial court should have given plaintiff's request to charge the jury that it could consider a violation of that regulation as evidence of negligence on the part of CSX. The court also held that because the circumstances surrounding plaintiff's dispute with the supervisors a few hours before he went to CSX's administration building to attend the safety meeting were at least indirectly material to matters at issue in this case, including whether plaintiff was acting within the cope of his employment at the time of his fall, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing CSX to cross-examine plaintiff on the issue and in admitting the testimony of supervisors for purposes of disproving certain facts to which plaintiff had testified.
Mulligan v. Selective HR Solutions, et al.
The court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in order to consider whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that the State Board of Worker's Compensation exceeded its authority in promulgating its Rule 205. The court held that, contrary to the analysis and resulting conclusion by the Court of Appeals, Rule 205 was not burden-shifting in the manner found and did not interfere with the substantive rights of the parties. The court also held that there was evidence to support the subject ruling that Mulligan did not sustain a subsequent compensable injury. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the order of the superior court interpreting Rule 205 was affirmed.
Stamey, et al. v. Policemen’s Pension Fund Board of Trustees
Appellants, former sworn officers of the Atlanta Police Department, appealed the grant of summary judgment to the Policemen's Pension Fund Board of Trustees (Board) in appellants' action seeking a writ of mandamus and an award of damages. While appellants were receiving disability pensions, the Atlanta City Council increased the multiplier used in calculating pensions from two percent to three percent in Ordinance 00-O-1099 and the ordinance was "applicable to all active sworn police officers employed as of the effective date" of the ordinance. At issue was whether the Board should use the three percent multiplier in calculating appellants' pension entitlements. The court held that there was no evidence presented that appellants were "active sworn officers" on the effective date of the new ordinance and in fact, it was alleged in the complaint that they were not. Accordingly, appellants were not entitled to the three percent multiplier and the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
City of McDonough v. Campbell
Plaintiff, who was employed as the City of McDonough's ("city") chief building inspector, brought suit against the city when the city refused to pay him severance under an employment agreement contract. At issue was whether the contract was binding to a successor municipal council in violation of OCGA 36-30-3(a). The court held that the contract was ultra vires and void because the contract was renewed automatically and the severance package required the city to pay plaintiff his salary and benefits for an entire year after the year in which the contract was terminated.
DeLoach v. Elliot, et al.
Appellant filed a negligence action against a police officer, in his individual and official capacity, and the City of Waynesboro after appellant was injured when the officer, while conducting a routine patrol, drove his police cruiser into the back of appellant's vehicle. At issue was whether the tort immunity for local government employees for situations covered by OCGA 36-92-3(a) was limited to only those covered situations in which the local government entity remained liable. Also at issue was whether the construction of the statute applied by the trial court rendered the statute unconstitutional because it violated the Georgia Constitution's guaranty of the right to trial by jury by foreclosing entirely any remedy for appellant for her injuries arising out of the underlying tort. The court affirmed summary judgment for appellees and held that, by the passage of section 36-92-3(a), the legislature intended to foreclose all recovery against municipal employees for torts committed within the scope of employment and involving the use of a covered motor vehicle. The court also held that the statute was not unconstitutional where appellant's failure to send ante litem notice, and not section 36-92-3(a), was why she found herself without a remedy; where the issue of immunity for the individual government employee was moot when appellant's constitutional right to a jury trial was satisfied by her ability to seek redress and recover from the city; and where the issue of whether the statutory cap on damages was unconstitutional, was now moot.