2020 Georgia Code
Title 34 - Labor and Industrial Relations
Chapter 9 - Workers' Compensation
Article 8 - Compensation for Occupational Disease
Part 1 - General Provisions
§ 34-9-280. Definitions

Universal Citation: GA Code § 34-9-280 (2020)

As used in this article, the term:

  1. "Disablement" means the event of an employee becoming actually disabled to work, as provided in Code Sections 34-9-261, 34-9-262, and 34-9-263, because of occupational disease.
  2. "Occupational disease" means those diseases which arise out of and in the course of the particular trade, occupation, process, or employment in which the employee is exposed to such disease, provided the employee or the employee's dependents first prove to the satisfaction of the State Board of Workers' Compensation all of the following:
    1. A direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed and the disease;
    2. That the disease followed as a natural incident of exposure by reason of the employment;
    3. That the disease is not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside of the employment;
    4. That the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed;
    5. That the disease must appear to have had its origin in a risk connected with the employment and to have flowed from that source as a natural consequence.

      For the purposes of this paragraph, partial loss of hearing due to noise shall not be considered an occupational disease. Psychiatric and psychological problems and heart and vascular diseases shall not be considered occupational diseases, except where they arise from a separate occupational disease.

(Code 1933, §§ 114-802, 114-803, 114-812, enacted by Ga. L. 1946, p. 103; Ga. L. 1971, p. 895, § 3; Ga. L. 1982, p. 3, § 34; Ga. L. 1982, p. 2485, §§ 4, 5, 8; Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 1.)

Editor's notes.

- Ga. L. 1987, p. 1474, § 17, not codified by the General Assembly, provided that that Act would apply to any occupational disease not previously diagnosed before July 1, 1987.

Law reviews.

- For article, "Occupational Diseases Under the Georgia Workmen's Compensation Act," see 8 Mercer L. Rev. 333 (1957). For comment, "Georgia's Mental Block in Workers' Compensation," see 36 Mercer L. Rev. 971 (1985).

JUDICIAL DECISIONS

ANALYSIS

  • General Consideration
  • Disablement
  • Occupational Disease
  • Pleading and Practice

General Consideration

Effect of statutory amendments.

- As to the effect of amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 et seq., on existing and terminated employment relationships, see Venable v. John P. King Mfg. Co., 174 Ga. App. 800, 331 S.E.2d 638 (1985).

No partial disability.

- Law does not contemplate such a thing as partial disability, except when, under the provisions of Ga. L. 1946, p. 103 (see now O.C.G.A. § 34-9-285), the condition results in part from an occupational disease and in part from some other condition not compensable, in which event the compensation is reduced proportionately. Yates v. United States Rubber Co., 100 Ga. App. 583, 112 S.E.2d 182 (1959).

Cited in Free v. Associated Indem. Corp., 78 Ga. App. 839, 52 S.E.2d 325 (1949); Ocean Accident & Guarantee Corp. v. Harris, 87 Ga. App. 399, 74 S.E.2d 12 (1953); Patterson v. Employer's Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 99 Ga. App. 325, 108 S.E.2d 146 (1959); Hopkins v. Employers Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 103 Ga. App. 579, 120 S.E.2d 321 (1961); Farrill v. Travelers Ins. Co., 105 Ga. App. 600, 125 S.E.2d 562 (1962); Butler v. National Lead Co., 106 Ga. App. 180, 126 S.E.2d 453 (1962); Miller v. Travelers Ins. Co., 111 Ga. App. 245, 141 S.E.2d 223 (1965); United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Hammock, 133 Ga. App. 839, 212 S.E.2d 484 (1975); Insurance Co. of N. Am. v. Brannon, 137 Ga. App. 468, 224 S.E.2d 115 (1976); Curtin v. Department of Human Resources, 150 Ga. App. 448, 258 S.E.2d 68 (1979); Burbank v. Mutual of Omaha Ins. Co., 484 F. Supp. 693 (N.D. Ga. 1979); Seitzingers, Inc. v. Barnes, 161 Ga. App. 855, 289 S.E.2d 315 (1982); Cummings v. Walsh Constr. Co., 561 F. Supp. 872 (S.D. Ga. 1983); Canton Textile Mills, Inc. v. Lathem, 253 Ga. 102, 317 S.E.2d 189 (1984); Whitaker v. Fieldcrest Mills, Inc., 174 Ga. App. 533, 330 S.E.2d 761 (1985); Evans v. Bibb Co., 178 Ga. App. 139, 342 S.E.2d 484 (1986).

Disablement

Disablement means the event of an employee becoming actually incapacitated because of occupational disease from performing the work the employee was last doing, or from performing work in any other occupation for remuneration. Yates v. United States Rubber Co., 100 Ga. App. 583, 112 S.E.2d 182 (1959).

When disability was caused by dermatitis herpetiformis, this was an occupational disease within the meaning of this section if it arose out of the claimant's employment. Griffith v. Employers Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 100 Ga. App. 157, 110 S.E.2d 539 (1959).

If the employee can no longer perform the duties of employment under exposed conditions, then whether or not "disablement" occurs must be determined by whether or not the claimant can find other employment equal to at least one-third of the claimant's former wages or $20.00 per week, whichever is less. Yates v. United States Rubber Co., 100 Ga. App. 583, 112 S.E.2d 182 (1959).

Injury caused by inhalation of noxious gas is not the type that should be referred to the medical board when the gas that the claimant was exposed to is not necessarily incidental to the work being performed or characteristic of and peculiar to the occupation of the deceased. Moone v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 145 Ga. App. 629, 244 S.E.2d 148 (1978).

If there is no loss of wages there is no disablement, and consequently no disability. Yates v. United States Rubber Co., 100 Ga. App. 583, 112 S.E.2d 182 (1959).

Occupational Disease

1. In General

O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280(2) requires the employee to prove all five of the criteria set forth therein. Fulton-DeKalb Hosp. Auth. v. Bishop, 185 Ga. App. 771, 365 S.E.2d 549 (1988).

Ordinary disease of life to which general public is exposed.

- Employee of a Georgia company who contracted malaria while on assignment in Belize satisfied subdivision (2)(D) of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280 since malaria is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public of Georgia is exposed, notwithstanding that it is an ordinary disease of life to which the general public of Belize is exposed. McCarty v. Delta Pride, 247 Ga. App. 734, 545 S.E.2d 117 (2001).

Emergency medical technician (EMT) who contracted hepatitis B, an infectious viral disease, failed to prove that it was an occupational disease, when the only evidence of record in regard to the five statutory criteria in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280(2) unrebuttedly established that hepatitis B is of a character to which the EMT may have had unknowing and substantial exposure outside of the EMT's employment and is an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed. Fulton-DeKalb Hosp. Auth. v. Bishop, 185 Ga. App. 771, 365 S.E.2d 549 (1988).

Betanapthalamine exposure.

- Disability resulting from exposure to betanapthalamine would be a disease not of a character to which the employee may have had substantial exposure outside the employment, but is an occupational disease. Continental Cas. Co. v. Synalloy Corp., 667 F. Supp. 1550 (S.D. Ga. 1985), aff'd, 826 F.2d 1024 (11th Cir. 1987).

Evidence supported award to employee with asbestosis.

- Workers' compensation award to an employee for total, permanent disability caused by pulmonary fibrosis and asbestosis was supported under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280(2) by sufficient evidence that the employee suffered injurious exposure to asbestos during the employee's course of employment with the employer; evidence in the record supported findings by an administrative law judge that the employee was exposed to asbestos while working for the employer, that a causal connection between the employee's exposure and the employee's asbestosis was shown by a preponderance of the evidence, and that the last time that the employee was exposed to asbestos took place during that employment. Putzel Elec. Contrs. v. Jones, 282 Ga. App. 539, 639 S.E.2d 540 (2006).

2. Former Law

Editor's notes.

- Annotations to decisions under this heading refer to the definition of "occupational disease" contained in this section as it existed prior to the 1987 amendment. That definition of "occupational disease" was contained in former paragraph (3) of this section.

Compensability of occupational disease.

- Disability in the form of a skin condition resulting from working around materials not listed in this section is not compensable. Rittenhouse v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 96 Ga. App. 407, 100 S.E.2d 145 (1957).

When an employee covered by the workers' compensation law (see now O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 et seq.) was injured as the result of an accident arising out of and in the course of employment as the result of contact with a substance not listed in this section, the employee was not entitled to compensation for an "occupational disease." Shore v. Pacific Employers Ins. Co., 102 Ga. App. 431, 116 S.E.2d 526 (1960).

"Occupational disease" was not compensable unless it was one included in this section. Benefield v. Harriett & Henderson Cotton Mills, Inc., 113 Ga. App. 556, 149 S.E.2d 196 (1966).

Application of 1971 amendment.

- The 1971 amendment to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280 (which added the provisions which now exist as paragraph (2)) did not apply to those plaintiffs whose employment terminated before the effective date of the amendment. Hall v. Synalloy Corp., 540 F. Supp. 263 (S.D. Ga. 1982).

Mental illness that results from a specific incident is not an occupational disease. Harper v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, 147 Ga. App. 680, 250 S.E.2d 16 (1978).

Claimant's emotional illness is not an occupational disease unless it was due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to the particular employment the claimant is engaged in. Harper v. Fidelity & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, 147 Ga. App. 680, 250 S.E.2d 16 (1978).

Medical board determines compensability of mental disorder.

- Whether mental disorder resulted from pressures of claimant's job environment and thus is compensable is a medical question which should be referred to the medical board for investigation. Sawyer v. Pacific Indem. Co., 141 Ga. App. 298, 233 S.E.2d 227 (1977).

Injury due to exposure to known carcinogen.

- Employees who alleged injury due to exposure to a known carcinogen could seek remedies solely under the Workers' Compensation Act, O.C.G.A. § 34-9-1 et seq., and not under common law, since the character of their disease could be considered as "listed" under the five criteria of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280 as a matter of law. Synalloy Corp. v. Newton, 254 Ga. 174, 326 S.E.2d 470 (1985).

Leukemia is not an occupational disease under O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280. Hull v. Merck & Co., 576 F. Supp. 616 (N.D. Ga. 1984).

Inogenous depression and anxiety neurosis are not occupational diseases because they do not meet the requirement of O.C.G.A. § 34-9-280 that the disease is not an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is exposed. Glynn County Bd. of Comm'rs v. Mimbs, 161 Ga. App. 350, 291 S.E.2d 62 (1982).

X-ray or autopsy are not exclusive methods of diagnosis of asbestosis.

- See Yates v. United States Rubber Co., 100 Ga. App. 583, 112 S.E.2d 182 (1959), construing former paragraph defining "asbestosis".

Pleading and Practice

Proof of poisoning required.

- Claimant was not entitled to recovery under the provisions pertaining to an occupational disease when there was a mass of evidence from experts showing that after having analyzed cement in which the claimant stood during the claimant's employment as a cement spreader, it was found that such cement did not contain any of the poisons as set forth in this section. Nowell v. Employers Mut. Liab. Ins. Co., 93 Ga. App. 288, 91 S.E.2d 389 (1956).

OPINIONS OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Manner of proof required for compensation for injury caused by contact with poisons.

- Unless it can be shown a person is allergic to one of the statutorily designated poisons in this section, and one of them did in fact cause an allergic reaction, compensation for disease or discomfort from an allergy should not be allowed. 1969 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 69-425.

RESEARCH REFERENCES

Am. Jur. 2d.

- 82 Am. Jur. 2d, Workers' Compensation, § 311 et seq.

C.J.S.

- 30 C.J.S. Employers' Liability for Injuries to Employees, § 5.

99 C.J.S., Workers' Compensation, § 356 et seq.

ALR.

- Necessity and sufficiency of evidence that disease contracted by applicant for workmen's compensation is attributable to employment, 20 A.L.R. 4; 73 A.L.R. 488.

Workmen's compensation: injury from fumes or gases as accident or occupational disease, 90 A.L.R. 619.

Disease resulting from insanitary conditions not peculiar to kind of employment as occupational disease within Workmen's Compensation Act, 105 A.L.R. 1411.

Workmen's compensation: illness or injury from contaminated water, 141 A.L.R. 1490.

Mental incapacity or disease as constituting total or permanent disability within insurance coverage, 22 A.L.R.3d 1000.

Admissibility of opinion evidence as to employability on issue of disability in health and accident insurance and workers' compensation cases, 89 A.L.R.3d 783.

Mental disorders as compensable under Workmen's Compensation Acts, 97 A.L.R.3d 161.

Right to workers' compensation for physical injury or illness suffered by claimant as result of sudden mental stimuli - Right to compensation under particular statutory provisions and requisites of, and factors affecting, compensability, 109 A.L.R.5th 161.

What constitutes, and remedies for, misuse of easement, 111 A.L.R.5th 313.

Right to workers' compensation for physical injury or illness suffered by claimant as result of nonsudden mental stimuli - Compensability of particular physical injuries or illnesses, 112 A.L.R.5th 509.

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