Friends and enemies, the Georgia Court of Appeals has decided a new workers' compensation case which is one of first impression. In Southern Concrete/Watkins Associated Indus., et al. v. Spires, ______ Ga. App. ______, Case No. A10A1981 and decided March 22, 2011, the Court undertook the decision on housing issues for catastrophically injured employees. In this case a paraplegic who was injured in a 1988 injury was in need of wheelchair-accessible housing after the house he owned was deemed uninhabitable. Mr. Spires owned some property in South Georgia and wanted the wheelchair-accessible home built on his property. The workers' comp insurance company wanted to build the house on another piece of property and maintain title to the house giving Mr. Spires a life estate so that he could live in the house as long as he was alive. The State Board of Workers' Compensation, Full Board decided that the insurance company should be allowed to build the house on their property and maintain title. The case went on to the superior court where the superior court judge ruled that the house could be built on Mr. Spires' own property and he could be given feesimple title. Onward to the Court of Appeals and the higher court reversed the superior court and ruled that the insurance company should be allowed to maintain title in the house and take possession after the death of the injured employee. There are not a lot of cases in the State of Georgia regarding rehabilitation services and housing requirements. The Board is required, and in its discretion to furnish employee with rehab services which it deems necessary and practical. It looks like the State Board took the practical route leaving title to the house to the insurance company. Very frankly Georgia needs more case law on the issues of home modifications, bathroom modifications and modifications of bathtubs and kitchens so that a clear understanding can be rendered in the given situation.
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