eNotes: Workers’ Compensation – November 2023 – Maryland
November 16, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Maryland Case Summary
In the Matter of Angela Scott
Appellate Court of Maryland- Unreported
Number 1042, September Term 2022
Decided: October 3, 2023
The Claimant filed issues for permanent partial and permanent total disability as a result of a compensable injury. Following a hearing, the WCC issued its Award finding the Claimant was not permanently totally disabled, but that she had sustained a permanent partial disability, and awarding her 38% industrial loss of use of her body, with 28% due to the work related injuries, and 10% due to pre-existing causes. The Claimant appealed and elected a de novo trial by jury. The jury found that the Claimant was permanently partially disabled, and affirmed the Commission’s Award that apportioned the PPD, 28% to the accident and 10% to pre-existing causes. This appeal was noted to question whether the Claimant should have been allowed to argue apportionment of a permanent total disability and to question whether the jury was properly instructed about the presumption of correctness of the WCC Award.
In a de novo appeal, the fact finder must review the evidence produced in this fresh proceeding, and determine independent findings of fact based on the evidence produced at this proceeding. This fact finding is to be focused only on issues involved in the WCC’s award at bar. The Court found that the WCC’s decision that Claimant was not totally permanently disabled mooted any fact finding by the jury about apportionment of an award of permanent total disability between the accidental injury and pre-existing causes. The appeal court correctly instructed the jury to find either permanent total or permanent partial disability, and then further instructed the jury that only if they found the Claimant to have a permanent total disability should they consider whether that permanent total disability was caused by the accidental injury, at least in part. To have instructed the jury to apportion permanent total disability as the Claimant requested on appeal would have been error since the WCC never reached the issue of apportionment of permanent total disability as it ruled the Claimant was not permanently totally disabled. Also, the Court clarified how to instruct a jury regarding the presumption of correctness on appeal: the jury should be told that the WCC’s decision is relevant and presumptively correct, and that the jury is free to give it the weight it desires, although the jury is not bound by the WCC’s Award.
Only the issues decided by the WCC expressly or by implication, can be the subject of a de novo trial. The jury will receive an instruction that the WCC award is relevant, presumptively correct and carries weight as the jury determines.
Questions about this case can be directed to Ruth Jacobs at (443)641-0573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.