GA Court Rules Employer Has Workers' Comp Immunity From Tort Suit Even Without Claim



Vratsinas Construction Company v. Chitwood

The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled an employer has workers' compensation immunity from a tort suit, even if a workers' compensation claim for that injury has not been filed by the employee. 

After suffering an injury while working for a subcontractor on a construction project, Vincent Chitwood filed a civil tort action against Vratsinas Construction Company (“VCC”), the general contractor for the project,  in connection with burns sustained from an electrical shock.  The trial judge denied the general contractor's motion for summary judgment based on workers' compensation immunity.  The Georgia Court of Appeals granted interlocutory review.  On appeal, the Court held the employee's suit was barred under the statutory-employer and exclusive-remedy provisions of the workers' compensation statute, though the subcontractor's employee had never submitted a claim for workers' compensation benefits and the general contractor had never paid such benefits on its own initiative.

In rendering its ruling, the Court noted it is a statutory employer's potential liability for workers' compensation benefits rather than actual liability that triggers tort immunity.  The fact no workers' compensation claim had been filed against the general contractor did not invalidate the immunity.  The fact the general contractor had not voluntarily paid workers' compensation benefits did not invalidate or defeat its statutory immunity.

About The Author:
Rayford H. Taylor

Rayford H. Taylor is an “AV” rated lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell.  He is a member of The Florida Bar and the State Bar of Georgia, and practices in the areas of administrative and governmental law, appellate practice, legislative consultation, and workers' compensation.He has practiced law in Georgia since 2002 and in Florida  since 1974. Prior to entering the private practice of law, he was affiliated with The Florida Bar for more than 12 years where he served as its general counsel and legislative counsel.

Mr. Taylor is with the Law Firm of Casey Gilson, P.C., and is a member of the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network.

His full bio is available here.


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