eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – April 2022 – Maryland
April 19, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
MD CASE SUMMARY
United Parcel Service, et al. v. David Strothers
In the Court of Special Appeals
Filed: February 4, 2022
Establishing a hernia claim only requires a preponderance of the evidence, the same standard of proof as in other occupational disease claims.
Claimant sustained an abdominal injury while using a power jack to move a load of pallets. Following the injury, he presented for treatment with complaints of right-side abdominal pain and nausea, and reported a history of hernias and surgeries. During that visit he was diagnosed with a right-side paraumbilical hernia. Claimant was discharged and instructed to follow up with his primary care physician. Claimant filed a First Report of Injury or Illness with his employer the next day. One week later, Claimant’s PCP diagnosed him and recommended an immediate surgery.
The employer and carrier contested the injury, and did not authorize the surgery nor request that he be evaluated by an independent physician. They relied on the defense that the hernia was not “immediately strangulated requiring emergency surgery.” (Labor and Employment 9-504(1)(ii)). Claimant nevertheless had the surgery. An evaluation for Claimant opined to a reasonable degree of medical probability that Claimant “developed a new onset of an umbilical hernia at the time of his accident.”
When Claimant filed a claim, the Commission found that he sustained a compensable accidental injury, and that the hernia was the result of the accident. UPS and LMI filed a Request for Rehearing with the Commission, which was denied. An “on the record” judicial review hearing occurred in the Circuit Court for Howard County where the trial judge affirmed the Commission’s decision. Defendants appealed again.
The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, relying on the statutory language, legislative histories, and judicial interpretations of the hernia provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act, Section 9- 504 of the Labor and Employment Article. “Definite proof” is not expressly defined; however, the Court held that the language of the statute is clear and expresses a simple meaning and it does not equate “definite proof” with any standard of proof. Moreover, the Court noted that if the General Assembly wanted to heighten the standard of proof for hernia compensation, they would have done so expressly. The Court held that the phrase “definite proof” refers to the quality of evidence needed to successfully assert a compensable hernia claim to ensure that compensation for hernias is based on testimony and evidence, most often and preferably, medical evidence, to substantiate a worker’s claim.
If Employer/Insurer wishes to contest a hernia claim using any provisions or ‘defenses’ found in the language of the statute Labor and Employment 9-504, it is crucial that the carrier consider obtaining an IME opinion to support its statutory defense(s) before litigating compensability.
Questions about this case can be directed to Ruth Jacobs at (443) 641-0573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.