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Lawskills.com Georgia Caselaw
FLETCHER v. AETNA CASUALTY & SURETY CO. et al.
36331.
Workmen's Compensation. Before Judge Pye. Fulton Superior Court. May 18, 1956.
NICHOLS, J.
The judgment of the Superior Court of Fulton County affirming the award of the State Board of Workmen's Compensation was not error for any reason assigned.
On August 9, 1954, James Fletcher relived an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment at Gordy Tire Company, Atlanta, Georgia, when a tire on which he was working exploded. On August 20, 1954, the State Board of Workmen's Compensation made an award, based upon an agreement between the parties, granting temporary total disability. On October 6, 1954, the claimant returned to work for the employer. On December 17, 1954, the State Board of Workmen's Compensation entered an award granting the claimant compensation for 25% loss of use of his right hand and on January 5, 1955, an award was entered by the Board authorizing a lump-sum payment for 25% loss of use of the claimant's right hand. Both awards dealing with the 25% loss of use of the right hand were based on agreements between the parties. A receipt was signed by the claimant for the lump-sum payment on January 7, 1955. On August 6, 1955, the claimant, through his attorney, requested a hearing for a change in condition, which hearing was held on September 30, 1955. The deputy director hearing the case entered an award increasing the permanent partial disability of the right hand from 25 percent to 30 percent and authorizing medical treatment for this disability up to the maximum amount provided by the Workmen's Compensation Act. The claimant appealed to the full board and in addition to appealing from the award granted argued in his brief that the award of the board on January 5, 1955, permitting a lump-sum settlement for the 25 per-cent permanent partial disability to the claimant's right hand was void because it was entered into prior to the expiration of six months after the award finding the 25 percent permanent partial disability to the claimant's right hand, and contended further that no attorney's fees were allowed in the award of the single director. The full board after considering the entire record entered an award affirming the award of the deputy director. The claimant then appealed the award of the full board to the Superior Court of Fulton County and in addition to contending that the evidence adduced at the hearing before the deputy director demanded a finding that the claimant's right hand was 60 percent permanently disabled insisted that the award of January 5, 1955, was void and that the award should be reversed since the award failed to provide for attorney's fees. Judge Durwood Pye, on May 18, 1956, entered a judgment affirming the award of the full board in which it was stated that the contentions of the claimant that the award of January 5, 1955, was void and that the award should be reversed because it did not make any provisions for attorney's fees, did not require a ruling of the superior court for a proper determination of the case. It is to this judgment that the claimant now excepts.
2. The claimant's attorneys contended on the appeal to the full board that the deputy director should have set aside the award of January 5, 1955, which permitted the payment in lump sum of the amount due the claimant under the award of December 17, 1954, which award, based upon an agreement between the parties, granted the claimant compensation for a 25 percent permanent partial loss of use of his right hand.
The only question presented to the deputy director was that there had been a "change in condition" in the claimant's injuries, presumably a change for the worse inasmuch as the request for a hearing was made by the claimant, and no other question was before the deputy director. The claimant contends that, since the review by the full board is not synonymous with a review by an appellate court but is a de novo investigation, the full board should have set aside such award inasmuch as the award permitting the lump-sum payment was made less than 26 weeks after the original award.
The Supreme Court in Freeman v. Carr, 104 Ga. 718, 719 (30 S. E. 935), said, with reference to an appeal from a county court to the superior court, "The trial of the case on appeal is a de novo proceeding, but it by no means follows that the pleadings and defenses in the case are to begin over again in this new trial. On the contrary, the new trial is had on the papers connected with the case when the judgment was rendered . . . subject to proper amendment." In the present case the claimant requested a hearing to determine a change in condition and no question as to whether the lump-sum award should be set aside was before the deputy director, nor was suds question before the full board which was reviewing the award of the deputy director. There had been no request for a hearing on this subject, and it is now unnecessary to rule on this question.
3. The claimant's attorneys contend that the award should be reversed since no attorney's fees are mentioned in the award. Before an attorney may collect a fee from a claimant for services rendered in connection with the claimant's case the contract of employment must be approved by the board. See Code (Ann.) 114-714, 114-9903. However, no contract can be approved unless it is presented to the board, and in the present case since no such contract appears in the record it cannot be said that the board erred in failing to award attorney's fees. The board is not required to fix the attorney's fees but is only required to determine if a contract entered into by the claimant and his attorney should be approved. See in this connection, Wilson v. Maryland Casualty Co., 71 Ga. App. 184 (30 S. E. 2d 420).
Therefore, the Judge of the Superior Court of Fulton County did not err in affirming the award of the full board and in not passing upon the question of attorney's fees or the judgment of the board dated January 5, 1955.
QUILLIAN, J., concurring specially. I concur in the majority Opinion simply because I am obliged to follow the precedent set in the case of Phinese v. Ocean Accident &c. Corp., 81 Ga. App. 394 (58 S. E. 2d 921). It is my opinion that the Phinese case is decided on the wrong appraisal of the evidential facts. Where the parties enter into a solemn agreement that the claimant suffered disability to a stipulated extent, that is evidence that his disability is just what the agreement entered into between him and his employee fixes it at. The testimony of a doctor who examines the claimant after a lapse of time from the date of the agreement that he is disabled to a greater or lesser extent than at the date of agreement, to my way of reasoning definitely is competent evidence of a change in the claimant's condition.
T. J. Long, Ben Weinberg, Jr., contra.
Bruce B. Edwards, Albert P. Feldman for plaintiff in error.
DECIDED JANUARY 29, 1957.
Saturday May 23 01:45 EDT


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