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COVID emergency order kept comp claim from moving forward: Court


A Georgia appellate court has ruled that a home health care worker was permitted to pursue her workers compensation claim even though no hearing was held within five years of the injury because the COVID-19 pandemic restricted court and administrative proceedings.

The Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division ruled Thursday that the state’s Board of Workers’ Compensation wrongly dismissed a claim filed by Evelyn Fann-Roberts because a statute of limitations had expired.

Ms. Fann-Roberts filed a comp claim in July 2017 after sustaining a work injury the previous year, but her employer, Coastal Home Care, denied the claim.  

Ms. Fann-Roberts requested several hearings before the board, but they were postponed after the Georgia Supreme Court’s chief justice declared a statewide judicial emergency in response to the pandemic.

An administrative law judge found the emergency order did not affect the claimant’s case, and that normal deadlines applied because at the time of the order there was no hearing pending before the state board.

Ms. Fann-Roberts appealed to a state trial court, which reversed the ruling, determining that the case was affected by the emergency order.

The employer appealed, but the appellate court sided with the claimant, ruling the claim was pending on the calendar and wasn’t heard simply because the emergency judicial order restricted hearings.