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Conservator’s settlement for minor children upheld

In Smith v. Parks Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (Georgia Ct. App. June 8, 2022), the mother of five children was killed by her boyfriend while she was cleaning a room as a Hilton employee. The probate court appointed a conservator for the minor children who filed a Worker’s Compensation claim. The claim was settled for $150,000, but later, after a successor conservator was appointed, the new conservator sought to have the court set that settlement aside.

The Court of appeals recited that the settlement agreement included a warranty of capacity certifying that the conservator “had the sole right and exclusive authority to execute the agreement and receive the sums specified in it. Further, the settlement agreement contained a provision requiring both parties to “cooperate fully and execute any and all supplementary documents and to take all additional actions, which may be necessary or appropriate to give full force and effect to the basic terms and intent of [the][s]ettlement[a]greement to specifically include a dismissal of [any] lawsuit in its entirety with prejudice.”

One basis for seeking to have the desision approving the settlement set aside was that the conservator lacked authority. However, the facts showed otherwise. Although the letters of conservatorship it issued to her, which state that she “shall . . . [n]ot sell or give away any of the [m]inor’s property without a court order,” the probate court subsequently issued a written order explaining that this requirement did not apply toworkers’ compensation settlement agreements approved by the Board. Thus, the Probate Court’s ruling showed there was not a non-amendable defect in the record preventing the conservator from selling the case. Although the trial did (incorrectly) find there was a non-amendable defect in the record, it ultimately refused to set aside the worker’s compensation settlement. Since a decision below that is right for any reason must be affirmed, the decision below was affirmed.

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