Breitenbach v. NB Handy Co.

Citation784 A.2d 569,366 Md. 467
Decision Date08 November 2001
Docket NumberNo. 28,28
PartiesWilliam B. BREITENBACH, v. N.B. HANDY COMPANY et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Robert G. Samet (Denise J. Gottron, Nicholas L. Phucas of Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP, Rockville, Tucker V. Claggett of Andrews, Schick, Bongar, Starkey & Woodside, Waldorf), all on brief, for appellant.

Kevin A. Clasing (Law Office of Nancy L. Harrison, Annapolis), on brief, for appellees.

Argued before BELL, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL and BATTAGLIA, JJ BELL, Chief Judge.

The question this case presents is whether a workers' compensation claimant, who has been injured in the course of employment and is receiving medical treatment pursuant to an award by the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission (the "Commission"), is entitled to reimbursement for the cost of transportation to and from the treating health care provider. We shall answer that question in the affirmative.

William B. Breitenbach, the appellant, filed a workers' compensation claim that the N.B. Handy Company and American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Company, the employer and insurer, respectively, and the appellees, did not contest, and the Commission passed an order granting the appellant benefits, including medical treatment. Subsequently, the appellant requested the appellees to reimburse him, at the rate of $.30 per mile, for the miles he traveled going to and from medical treatment. The request was denied, whereupon the appellant sought and received a hearing before the Commission.1 The Commission ordered the appellees to reimburse the appellant for his mileage expenses.

The appellees filed a Petition for Judicial Review in the Circuit Court for St. Mary's County. Thereafter, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court granted the appellees' motion and denied the appellant's, thus, reversing the Commission's decision. Dissatisfied with that ruling, the appellant noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. Prior to that court's consideration of the appeal, we granted certiorari on our own motion. As indicated, we believe that a workers' compensation claimant receiving medical treatment pursuant to an order of the Commission is entitled to be reimbursed the reasonable and necessary transportation expenses for travel to and from that medical treatment. Consequently, we shall reverse the judgment of the Circuit Court for St. Mary's County.

This case involves statutory construction of the Workers' Compensation Act, Title 9 of the Labor and Employment Article, Maryland Code (1999 Repl.Vol., 2000 Cum.Supp.), thus, the principles that guide us have been stated on numerous occasions and are well settled. We recently reiterated those principles in Philip Elecs. North America v. Wright, 348 Md. 209, 212, 703 A.2d 150, 151 (1997), stating:

"As we have repeatedly emphasized, the Act is remedial in nature and "`should be construed as liberally in favor of injured employees as its provisions will permit in order to effectuate its benevolent purposes.'" Para v. Richards Group, 339 Md. 241, 251, 661 A.2d 737, 742 (1995) (quoting Howard Co. Ass'n Retard. Cit. v. Walls, 288 Md. 526, 530, 418 A.2d 1210, 1213 (1980)); see § 9-102(a). Thus, in interpreting the Act, we do not apply the canon of construction that a statute in derogation of the common law should be strictly construed. § 9-102(b). Moreover, all sections of the Act must be read together, in conjunction with one another, to discern the true intent of the legislature. Vest v. Giant Food Stores, Inc., 329 Md. 461, 466-67, 620 A.2d 340, 342 (1993); Ryder Truck Lines v. Kennedy, 296 Md. 528, 537, 463 A.2d 850, 856 (1983). Of course, we seek to avoid an interpretation which would lead to an untenable or illogical outcome. Greco v. State, 347 Md. 423, 429, 701 A.2d 419, 422 (1997); Waskiewicz v. General Motors Corp., 342 Md. 699, 708, 679 A.2d 1094, 1099 (1996); see also Superior Builders, Inc. v. Brown, 208 Md. 539, 543, 119 A.2d 376, 378 (1956)

("The Act should receive a practical construction, and should be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose.").

In construing the Act, as in construing all statutes, the paramount objective is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Marriott Employees v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 346 Md. 437, 444, 697 A.2d 455, 458 (1997); Bowen v. Smith, 342 Md. 449, 454, 677 A.2d 81, 83 (1996). In interpreting the Act, we apply the following general principles. First, if the plain meaning of the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, and consistent with both the broad purposes of the legislation, and the specific purpose of the provision being interpreted, our inquiry is at an end. Marriott Employees, 346 Md. at 445, 697 A.2d at 458; Frank v. Baltimore County, 284 Md. 655, 661, 399 A.2d 250, 254 (1979); see Polomski v. Baltimore, 344 Md. 70, 75-76, 684 A.2d 1338, 1340 (1996)

. Second, when the meaning of the plain language is ambiguous or unclear, we seek to discern the intent of the legislature from surrounding circumstances, such as legislative history, prior case law, and the purposes upon which the statutory framework was based. DeBusk [v. Johns Hopkins Hosp.], 342 Md. [432] at 437, 677 A.2d [73] at 75 [1996]. Last, applying a canon of construction specific to the Act, if the intent of the legislature is ambiguous or remains unclear, we resolve any uncertainty in favor of the claimant. Baltimore v. Cassidy, 338 Md. 88, 97, 656 A.2d 757, 761-62 (1995); Lovellette v. Baltimore, 297 Md. 271, 282, 465 A.2d 1141, 1147 (1983).

This Court, however, may not stifle the plain meaning of the Act, or exceed its purposes, so that the injured worker may prevail. Morris v. Bd. of Educ., 339 Md. 374, 384, 663 A.2d 578, 583 (1995). Similarly, the Court may not create ambiguity or uncertainty in the Act's provisions where none exists so that a provision may be interpreted in favor of the injured claimant. R & T Constr. v. Judge, 82 Md.App. 700, 709, 573 A.2d 96, 100 (1990), modified, 323 Md. 514, 594 A.2d 99 (1991)."

Of course, "[t]he cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the legislature." Oaks v. Connors, 339 Md. 24, 35, 660 A.2d 423, 429 (1995). Important to determining legislative intent, sought in the first instance in the actual language of the statute, Marriott Employees Fed. Credit Union v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 346 Md. 437, 444-45, 697 A.2d, 455, 458 (1997); Stanford v. Maryland Police Training & Correctional Comm'n, 346 Md. 374, 380, 697 A.2d 424, 427 (1997)(quoting Tidewater/Havre de Grace, Inc. v. Mayor of Havre de Grace, 337 Md. 338, 344, 653 A.2d 468, 472 (1995)); Coburn v. Coburn, 342 Md. 244, 256, 674 A.2d 951, 957 (1996); Romm v. Flax, 340 Md. 690, 693, 668 A.2d 1, 2 (1995); Oaks, 339 Md. at 35, 660 A.2d at 429; Mauzy v. Hornbeck, 285 Md. 84, 92, 400 A.2d 1091, 1096 (1979); Bd. of Supervisors v. Weiss, 217 Md. 133, 136, 141 A.2d 734, 736 (1958), is the purpose of the statutory scheme of which the statute under review is a part. Here, that purpose was set out in the Preamble to Acts 1914, ch. 800, which enacted what is now the Workers' Compensation Act. We have stated that purpose as being "to protect workers and their families from hardships inflicted by work-related injuries by providing workers with compensation for loss of earning capacity resulting from accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment," Howard County Ass'n, Retard. Cit. v. Walls, 288 Md. 526, 531, 418 A.2d 1210 (1980), and "to promote the general welfare of the State and to prevent the State and its taxpayers from having to care for injured workmen and their dependents, when under the law as it previously existed, such workmen could not recover damages for their injuries." Paul v. Glidden Co., 184 Md. 114, 119, 39 A.2d 544, 546 (1944). See also Victor v. Proctor & Gamble Mfg. Co., 318 Md. 624, 628-29, 569 A.2d 697, 699-700 (1990)

; Unsatisfied Claim Bd. v. Salvo, 231 Md. 262, 264, 189 A.2d 638, 639 (1963); Egeberg v. Md. Steel Prods. Co., 190 Md. 374, 379, 58 A.2d 684, 685 (1948).

We have repeatedly emphasized the Act's remedial nature and that it "should be construed as liberally in favor of the injured employees as its provisions will permit in order to effectuate its benevolent purposes." Howard County Ass'n Retard. Cit. v. Walls, 288 Md. at 530, 418 A.2d at 1213. Thus, we also have said, in interpreting the Act, we do not apply the cannon of construction that a statute in derogation of the common law should be strictly construed. Philip Elecs., 348 Md. at 216-17, 703 A.2d at 153-54. See Porter v. Bayliner Marine Corp., 349 Md. 609, 616, 709 A.2d 1205, 1208 (1998)

; B. Frank Joy Co. v. Isaac, 333 Md. 628, 634-35, 636 A.2d 1016, 1019 (1994). Section 9-102, relating to the construction of the Act, is consistent, providing:

"(a) In general.—This title shall be construed to carry out its general purpose.
(b) Rule for strict construction inapplicable.—The rule that a statute in derogation of the common law is to be strictly construed does not apply to this title."

At issue in this case are the reasonable travel expenses necessary for the appellant to go back and forth to the providers of the medical treatment the Commission ordered the appellees to provide. Section 9-660(a), which pertains to medical services and treatment provided, prescribes:

"(a) in addition to the compensation provided under this subtitle, if a covered employee has suffered an accidental personal injury, compensable hernia, or occupational disease the employer or its insurer promptly shall provide to the covered employee, as the Commission may require:
(1) medical, surgical, or other attendance or treatment;
(2) hospital and nursing services;
(3) medicine;
(4) crutches and other apparatus; and
(5) artificial arms, feet, hands, and legs and other prosthetic appliances."

Thus, the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
75 cases
  • Whye v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • September 24, 2013
    ...of the legislation, and the specific purpose of the provision being interpreted, our inquiry is at an end." Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy Co., 366 Md. 467, 473, 784 A.2d 569 (2001) (citing Marriott Employees v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 346 Md. 437, 445, 697 A.2d 455 (1997)). "Second, when the mean......
  • Johnson v. Mayor & City Council of Balt.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • February 25, 2013
    ...of the legislation, and the specific purpose of the provision being interpreted, our inquiry is at an end.” Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy Co., 366 Md. 467, 473, 784 A.2d 569 (2001) (citing Marriott Employees v. Motor Vehicle Admin., 346 Md. 437, 445, 697 A.2d 455 (1997)). “Second, when the mean......
  • Richard Beavers Constr., Inc. v. Wagstaff
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 1, 2018
    ...favor of the claimant.’ " Johnson v. Mayor & City Council of Balt. , 430 Md. at 377–78, 61 A.3d 33 (quoting Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy Co. , 366 Md. 467, 473, 784 A.2d 569 (2001) ). On the other hand, a faithful interpreter must not ignore the statute's plain meaning or create ambiguity wher......
  • Simmons v. Comfort Suites
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 31, 2009
    ...could not recover damages for their injuries." Paul v. Glidden Co., 184 Md. 114, 119, 39 A.2d 544, 546 (1944). Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy Co., 366 Md. 467, 474, 784 A.2d 569 (2001). In Breitenbach, the Court of Appeals stated that, when interpreting the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT