Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Montgomery County in this workers' compensation case, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.In 2007, Petitioner, a firefighter in Montgomery County, experienced a service-related back injury, which led to his retirement three years later. Petitioner subsequently developed a compensable degree of occupational hearing loss related to his employment and sought workers' compensation benefits. Although the Workers' Compensation Commission awarded Petitioner compensation for his hearing loss the Commission determined that the entirety fo the award be offset under Md. Code, Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-610. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner's service-connected total disability retirement benefits arising from his back injury were "similar" to his permanent partial disability benefits, and the benefits related to his occupational hearing were offset under LE 9-610. View "Spevak v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the trial courts in these two labor and employment cases erred in granting summary judgment at the conclusion of the workers' evidence at trial because genuine issues of material fact existed.At issue was whether construction workers were entitled to unpaid wages or overtime wages for the time that they waited and traveled between a parking area where their employers directed them to park and a construction site where they performed physical labor. Specifically at issue was whether the Portal-to Portal Act, 29 U.S.C. 251 to 262, has been adopted or incorporated into Maryland law, in which cases the workers' wait and travel time of approximately two hours would not be compensable. The trial courts granted summary judgment in favor of the employers and dismissed all claims. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was genuine disputes of material fact as to whether the workers were entitled to compensation under Code of Maryland Regulations 09.12.41.10. View "Amaya v. DGS Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Respondents' motion to dismiss Petitioner's petition for judicial review of the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission summarily denying Petitioner's second request for modification of an earlier order, holding that the circuit court erred.The Commission issued an order approving Petitioner's request for four additional weeks of physical therapy for her left shoulder that was injured due to a workplace accident. More than three years later, Petitioner filed a request for modification of the earlier order denying her request for authorization of surgery. The Commission denied the request without a hearing. Petitioner then filed a second request for modification, which the Commission denied without a hearing. The circuit court denied Petitioner's petition for judicial review. The court of special appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission's summary denial of Petitioner's request for modification was not subject to judicial review. View "Sanders v. Board of Education of Harford County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Baltimore City had breached its contract with two out of three sub-classes of police officers and firefighters and finding that Ordinance 10-306 retrospectively divested the members of those sub-classes of benefits they had earned, holding that there were no factual or legal errors in the circuit court's rulings.Baltimore City maintained a Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System (the Plan) to provide pension benefits to members of the City's police and fire departments. In 2010, the City enacted Ordinance 10-306, under which the City changed some of the key terms of the Plan. Plaintiffs commenced a class action lawsuit alleging claims for declaratory relief and breach of contract. The circuit court certified a class of plaintiffs and three sub-classes: a retired sub-class, a retirement-eligible sub-class, and an active sub-class. The circuit court granted judgment for all but the active sub-class, ruling that, as to currently employed members who had not yet reached retirement eligibility, Ordinance 10-306 did not affect vested benefits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Ordinance retrospectively divested retired and retirement-eligible members of the benefits they had earned. View "Cherry v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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In this grievance proceeding, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating the judgment of the circuit court affirming in part and reversing in part the decision of the ALJ and remanding with instructions to dismiss the proceeding, holding that the complaint did not present a grievable issue.Keith Merryman, a police officer employed by the University of Baltimore and the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 146 (the Union), initiated a grievance proceeding complaining about holiday leave. The ALJ ruled in favor of the Union. The circuit court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court of special appeals held that the ALJ lacked jurisdiction over the complaint because the dispute was not a grievable issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the memorandum of understanding in this case, which incorporated the grievance procedures set forth in Md. Code Ann., Educ. 13-201 to 13-206, the complaint did not constitute a grievable issue. View "Merryman v. University of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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In this workers' compensation action, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Uninsured Employers' Fund's (UEF) motion for judgment, holding that the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Tyson Farms, Inc. was Mauro Garcia's co-employer as a matter of law.Mauro Jimenez Garcia sustained an occupational disease of the lungs while working on a chicken farm. The chickens were raised for and owned by Tyson. The Uninsured Employers' Fund became involved in Garcia's workers' compensation claim, and Tyson was impleaded into the claim. The Commission issued an award of compensation, determination that Garcia was a covered employee that sustained an occupational disease arising of and in the course of his employment and that Tyson was Garcia's co-employer. On judicial review, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Tyson, finding that Tyson was not Garcia's co-employer. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Tyson was not a co-employer of Garcia. View "Tyson Farms, Inc. v. Uninsured Employers' Fund" on Justia Law

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In this workers' compensation action, the Court of Appeals held that the Workers' Compensation Commission did not err in calculating the deduction of decibels from Claimants' total average hearing losses under Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-650(b)(3) by counting the number of years between each firefighter's fiftieth birthday and the dates that they each retired from employment with Montgomery County, Maryland.Anthony Cochran and Andrew Bowen, former firefighters, developed hearing loss, and Bowen also developed tinnitus. Both men filed a claim under LE 9-505. The Commission awarded compensation to both claimants, finding that each had sustained hearing loss arising in and out of the course of their employment and that Bowen had sustained tinnitus arising in and out of the course of his employment. The Court of Special Appeals held that the Commission correctly calculated the deduction set forth in LE 9-650(b)(3) but erred in awarding permanent partial disability benefits to Bowen for tinnitus. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commission properly calculated the deduction set forth in LE 9-650(b)(3) by counting the number of years between each man's fiftieth birthday and the date of retirement; and (2) the Court of Special Appeals erred in reversing the Commission's decision as to tinnitus. View "Montgomery County v. Cochran & Bowen" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that the release Bernard Collins provided in settlement of his workers' compensation claims did not bar Peggy Collins from asserting her independent claim for death benefits under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. Title 9.Two years before he died, Bernard settled claims he had brought under the Act against Petitioners, his former employer and its insurers, for disability benefits related to his heart disease. In the parties' settlement agreement, Bernard purported to release Petitioners from any claims that he or his spouse might have under the Act relating to his disability. After Bernard died, Peggy filed her claim for benefits based on Bernard's death from heart disease. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners based on release. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because Peggy was not a party to the settlement agreement, Petitioners may not enforce the release against Peggy; and (2) Bernard's settlement of his claims under the Act did not extinguish Peggy's future claim for death benefits. View "In re Bernard L. Collins" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals agreed with the judgment of the hearing examiner granting line-of-duty (LOD) retirement benefits to Petitioner, a retired Baltimore City police officer, based on a finding of fact that Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury, holding that the hearing examiner did not err.Police officers are potentially eligible for two different levels of disability benefits - a less substantial non-line-of-duty (NLOD) level of benefits or a more substantial LOD level of benefits. Benefits for NLOD disability may be awarded on the basis of a mental or physical incapacity, but benefits for LOD disability can only be awarded based on a physical incapacity. Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a concussion in the course of his duties. The hearing examiner granted Petitioner LOD disability benefits, concluding that he was permanently physically incapacitated. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner's incapacities were mental rather than physical. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to LOD benefits. View "Couret-Rios v. Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of City of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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In these two cases arising from two instances of police misconduct the Court of Appeals held that the police officers were acting within the scope of their employment, and therefore, the City of Baltimore was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs.The officers in these cases were members of the Baltimore City Police Department's now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force. Members of the task force engaged in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy, resulting in the officers being convicted in federal court. These two cases arose out of instances in which the officers conducted stops and made arrests without reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. The plaintiffs and the officers agreed to a settlement of the lawsuits. As part of the settlements, the officers assigned to the plaintiffs the right to indemnification from the City. Thereafter, the plaintiffs sought payment of the settlements by the City. In both cases, the parties entered into a stipulated settlement of undisputed material facts. The Supreme Court held (1) the stipulations in both cases established that the officers' conduct satisfied the test for conduct within the scope of employment; and (2) therefore, the City was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs for the officers' actions by paying the settlements that the plaintiffs and the officers reached. View "Baltimore City Police Department v. Potts" on Justia Law