By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
Executive Chairman Ted Rumley and County Attorney Robin Rogers confirmed last
week that former Sheriff Patrick Cannon is pressing a workers’ compensation
lawsuit against Dade County.
The law treats
workers’ compensation claims differently from other civil litigation in open
court in that they are not considered matters of public record and are
protected from the prying eyes of the press.
But Rumley and
Rogers did not mind parting with general information about the claim, though
they specified it was not a matter the county is dealing with directly in any
workers’ comp claim is filed, we have ACCG attorneys that handle that, so
really, as far as the county goes, it’s kind of out of our hands after that
point,” said Rogers.
ACCG is the
acronym for the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
Rumley said that the former sheriff first opened a workers’ compensation claim
when he injured his back during 2006 or 2007 – “It was open when we took
office,” said Rumley, who was first elected in 2008 – in the course of his job
duties. Rumley said the injury occurred while Cannon was carrying a dead body
from a crime or accident scene on Sand Mountain he’d responded to.
“He was out of
work for a while because of that,” said Rogers. “I mean, it wasn’t a week, it
was an extended period of time.”
The claim has
been open ever since, said Rogers, but while the sheriff was still an employee
of Dade County, his salary was routinely paid by the county, not by the
workers’ compensation carrier. The carrier did pay for medical treatment Cannon
received, he said.
It was only
after the sheriff lost his bid for reelection that cash compensation became an
issue. Rogers said he was unsure of workers’ comp law from state to state but
understood: “You have to be out of work for 30 days before workers’ comp kicks
Cannon, who was
first elected in 2004, won a second term in 2008 but was bested by current
Sheriff Ray Cross in last year’s Republican primary.
Rumley and Rogers, they are routinely updated on how Cannon’s case is
progressing but haven’t been asked for testimony. “I don’t think anyone has
ever been asked to do a deposition or anything like that,” said Rogers. “It’s
never been an issue of compensability, as far as I know.”
said he didn’t know whether Cannon had asked for a lump sum settlement but that
that was normal in cases where employees were judged to have sustained serious
on-the-job injuries. “If there’s a permanent impairment, yeah, he would be
entitled to some sort of payment under the workers’ comp law,” said Rogers.
As to when the
matter will be settled, Rogers could only shrug. “I’ve always heard, and it
does seem to be true, that insurance carriers want to close out as many open
claims as they can by the end of the year because it looks better on their
books somehow,” he said.
So he wouldn’t
be surprised if the case concluded by the end of 2013, he said, but he added
that workers’ compensation cases sometimes drag on for years and it could just
as easily be 2014 or beyond.
will Cannon’s claim have on Dade County? “We’re not going to write a check for
it,” said Rumley. The county’s insurance carrier will pay, he said.
“But, as at any
time you have a claim, whether you’re driving a car of your own or whatever,
your insurance goes up when you file a claim, usually,” he said.