We are pleased to announce a victory—not only for our client—but for injured workers across the state of Georgia. This case interpreted the definition of a "work accident" under Georgia Workers Compensation Act.
In 1935, the Georgia Supreme Court decided that "scheduled breaks" for lunch are not covered under Georgia Workers Compensation law. This Judge made exception to the law has been used to deny workers' comp coverage to thousnads of injured workers over the last 85 years. Our firm represented the Claimant after she suffered a workplace fall while on a scheduled lunch break. She was walking out of the break room to go eat lunch outside when she slipped on a wet floor. The State Board of Workers compensation denied her claim, citing the 1935 decision of Ocean Acc. & Guar. Corp. v. Farr.
In the Farr case (1935), the employee was denied benefits when he fell down the stairs while on a lunch break. The Court reasoned that he was outside of the employers control on an individual pursuit. Although thousands of workers have been denied compensation because they were on a scheduled lunch break, we beleived that the Farr case was poorly reasoned. It ignored the statutory definition of a work accident as one "arising out of and in the course of employment". We fought this case through the Appellate Courts to the Georgia Supreme Court, in a process that took over 3 years.
At the Court of Appeals, the question was whether Ms. Frett should have been covered under another exception called the "ingress and egress rule." Under this rule, an accident is in the course of employment while an employee is entering or leaving the work premises. The "ingress and egress rule" was in direct contradiction with the "scheduled break" defense. The Court did not find that Ms. Frett's accident fell under workers' compensation law. They noted that this was a "harsh result", but felt that they were bound to follow the Supreme Court's 1935 decision in Farr.
At the Georgia Supreme Court, we argued the Claimant have been covered under the "ingress and egress rule", as it has existed in Georgia since the 1950's. But, we also argued that the Court should reject the "scheduled break defense" as poorly reasoned and outdated. The Supreme Court agreed with us that the Farr decision was poorly reasoned. Particularly they agreed that the 1935 case mixed up the "two prong test" for arising out of and in the course of employment. The Court rightly characterised the Farr case as "poorly reasoned" — even for its time — and overturned the 85-year-old case.
Needless to say, the decision in Frett v State Farm marks a long-awaited return to the original intent of Georgia's Workers Compensation Act. It is hard to imagine how many injured Georgian's had been denied compensation under the former "scheduled break defense."