The Georgia Court of Appeals just issued a significant decision for consumers. The case is Austell Healthcare, Inc. v. Scott , (A10A2346, March 11, 2011).
Dan Scott was employed by Austell Healthcare in Austell Georgia when he was injured in a vehicle collision. Travelers Indemnity was Austell Healthcare’s worker’s compensation insurer. Mr. Scott sued the parties that were responsible for the collision. Travelers paid over $59,000 for workers compensation benefits to Mr. Scott. Travelers wanted to be reimbursed out any settlement that Mr. Scott entered into with the responsible parties. Mr. Scott settled his claims against the responsible parties for $76,000.00 and then filed a motion to quash Travelers lien of $59,000 against his settlement proceeds. Mr. Scott contended that he was not fully compensated and, therefore, Travelers was not entitled to be reimbursed. The trial court granted Mr. Scott’s motion and quashed Travelers’ lien. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision. Specifically, the Georgia Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence that Scott had not been fully compensated and was not required to reimburse Travelers out of the settlement proceeds.
This is an important decision because it reaffirms that workers who have worker’s compensation insurance can be assured under Georgia law that they must be fully compensated for any injuries they sustain as a result of the negligence of another, even when the worker’s compensation insurer pays their benefits. This is not only a correct legal result, it is the most equitable result. To allow the workers compensation insurer to take the vast majority of the settlement proceeds without proving that the employee had been fully compensated would no doubt be unfair and unjust.