eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – January 2023 – Maryland
January 25, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Maryland Case Summary
United Parcel Service, et al. v. David Strothers
Maryland Court of Appeals
253 Md. App. 708
Decided December 2022
The standard of proof required to establish a compensable hernia claim is the same “preponderance of evidence” standard as in other occupational disease claims, and the inclusion of the phrase “definite proof” in the WC hernia statute refers to the quality of evidence required to establish compensability, not the standard of proof.
Claimant, who has a history of hernias, sustained an abdominal injury while working. He was diagnosed with a right-side paraumbilical hernia, and a week later his PCP concurred with the diagnosis and recommended an immediate surgery. The Employer contested the injury, disputing that the hernia required emergency surgery. An evaluation for Claimant was conducted by Dr. Robert Macht, who opined to a reasonable degree of medical probability that appellee “developed a new onset of an umbilical hernia at the time of his accident,” and he underwent “urgent surgery” due to the umbilical hernia.
Claimant filed a claim seeking compensation in relation to his hernia. The Commission found that Claimant sustained a compensable accidental injury, and that the hernia was the result of the accident. The Employer filed a Request for Rehearing with the Commission, which was denied. After an “on the record” judicial review hearing, the trial judge affirmed the Commission’s decision.
The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court first noted 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. While “definite proof” is not expressly defined, 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. Employer appealed.
The Court of Appeals holds “definite proof,” as used in L&E § 9- 504(a)(1) applies to the quality of evidence that a claimant must submit as part of his or her burden of production under a workers’ compensation claim for an accidental hernia. “Definite proof” does not affect the standard of proof, which is held to be a preponderance of the evidence in hernia cases. In this case, Claimant satisfied the criteria by producing an expert medical opinion.
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.