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Next Week at the Court

April 4, 2014

On Monday, April 7, 2014, the Supreme Court returns for the first of three days of argument scheduled for April. Summaries of the cases within the scope of our coverage being argued are below.

Monday, April 7, 2014 10:00 am Sitting

S13G1812 Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority v. Reid

The case began when Reid was injured while an employee of MARTA in October 1999. Reid timely filed for worker’s compensation benefits and MARTA made 32 payments to him based on his temporary total disability before he was able to return to work in 2002. But 12 of those 32 payments were untimely or late based on the worker’s compensation statute. Reid did not raise any issues at the time. In 2010, Reid’s attorney requested MARTA pay the statutory penalty of 15% for each of the 12 late payments. MARTA refused, saying the demand was barred by the statute of limitations. Reid then filed a hearing request with the State Board, which denied the request. The Appellate Division of the State Board affirmed the denial, as did the Fulton County Superior Court. Reid filed an application for discretionary appeal, which the Court of Appeals granted.

The Court of Appeals (Branch and Ellington; Phipps concurring in judgment only) unanimously reversed the superior court decision, finding that the request was not a request for additional benefits resulting from a “change in condition.” That kind of request would be barred by the two-year statute of limitations contained in the worker’s compensation statute. Reid’s request was not a change in condition because it was not a change in status. In addition, the request is based on the initial claim for benefits, not a modification of a prior decision. As a result, the only statute of limitation which is relevant is the general statute on filing an initial claim, which was met because his claim was timely filed originally.

On January 6, 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously granted the petition for certiorari to consider the following question:

  1. Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the proper statute of limitations for a claim of statutory penalties for late benefits payments in workers’ compensation cases under OCGA § 34-9-221 is the general statute of limitations, OCGA § 34-9-82, rather than OCGA § 34-9-104 (b), the change in condition statute of limitations?

The Court will hear oral argument on the case on April 7, 2014.

S14A0728 Jansen-Nichols v. Kinder Morgan Southeast Terminals, LLC et al.

This case involves helicopter flights over the home of Ms. Jansen-Nichols. Ms. Jansen-Nichols owns a house across the street from two of Colonial Pipeline’s pipes that carry gasoline and diesel fuel. Colonial owns easements that allow it to construct, operate, and repair the pipelines. On two occasions in May and June 2013, Colonial’s leak detection systems triggered and Colonial dispatched an inspector in a helicopter to visually inspect the pipeline. Ms. Jansen-Nichols claimed that the helicopters hovered low over her house, causing alarm to those inside. The inspector and pilots testified that helicopters flew at an altitude of 150 feet, staying along the edge of the easement for the length of the line. The trial court denied Ms. Jansen-Nichols’ motion for a preliminary injunction and she appealed.

The case will be heard on April 7, 2014.

Monday, April 7, 2014 2:00 pm Sitting

S14A0631 Selke et al. v. Carson et al.

This case involves the termination of sheriff’s deputies in Forsyth County. In February 2013, the Forsyth County sheriff terminated 11 deputies as part of a reduction in force. The deputies claimed their termination was based on political retaliation and age discrimination. The deputies attempted to appeal their terminations, but the sheriff and personnel services director both denied the requests. The deputies then brought a mandamus action to seek to compel the personnel services director to forward their appeals to the county’s civil service board. The trial court denied that request and granted the state’s motion to dismiss and the deputies appealed.

The case will be heard on April 7, 2014.

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