ATLANTA, GA (WALB) - The appeal in this Dooly County case stems from a workers' compensation claim filed by Willie Barnes.
The company that paid his benefits is appealing a ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, which concluded that a two-year statute of limitations and a one-year statute of limitations did not apply in Barnes' case and he was entitled to more benefits.
In August 1993, Barnes was working at Georgia-Pacific Corporation's wood processing plant when his leg went through rotten flooring and he landed in an auger, causing an immediate amputation of his left leg below the knee.
Georgia Pacific and its workers' compensation servicing agent, CCMSI, accepted Barnes' claim as "catastrophic" and began paying him "temporary total disability" income benefits. Barnes was fitted with a prosthetic leg, and he returned to work at Georgia-Pacific in January 1994, at which time his temporary benefits were replaced with permanent partial disability benefits.
Barnes' last permanent disability payment was issued in May 1998, and he got no workers' compensation benefits after that.
Georgia-Pacific sold that plant to Roseburg Forest Products in 2006, and in 2009, Roseburg laid off a number of employees, including Barnes.
In 2012, Barnes filed with Georgia-Pacific a claim to resume temporary total disability benefits. Using 1993 as the date of injury, Barnes claimed he had remained catastrophically injured since 1993 (though he had continued to work with limitations) and that, as a catastrophically injured worker, he was entitled to receive benefits beginning on the date he no longer had a job.
He also requested that his legal expenses be paid.
The new owners, Roseburg Forest responded that the two-year statute of limitations had expired. In November 2012, Barnes filed another claim, saying his date on injury was September 11, 2009, when he was laid off.
Barnes' claim was barred, and then he appealed to the superior court, where he also lost. Barnes then appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which reversed the superior court's ruling, saying that Barnes had met the time requirement, because he filed his notice of claim within one year of the December 2011 replacement of his prosthetic leg.
Roseburg Forest Products Company's lawyers, Eric Trivett and Danielle Taylor, are appealing to the state Supreme Court, claiming that the Court of Appeals was wrong in finding that the two-year statute of limitations does not apply to catastrophic cases.
Barnes' attorney, Michael Rosetti, argues that the Court of Appeals ruling should be upheld, "As a catastrophically-injured worker, who has returned to suitable light-duty for more than two years, is entitled to reinstatement of indemnity benefits in those instances where the employer is no longer willing or able to accommodate the significant limitations associated with that catastrophic injury."