Montgomery County v. Wade

Decision Date01 September 1996
Docket NumberNo. 7,7
Citation690 A.2d 990,345 Md. 1
PartiesMONTGOMERY COUNTY, Maryland v. Pamela J. WADE. ,
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

John S. Joseph, Assistant County Attorney (Charles W. Thompson, Jr. County Attorney; Joann Robertson, Senior Assistant County Attorney, all on brief), Rockville, for Petitioner.

Alan B. Gross (Berman, Sobin & Gross, on brief), Gaithersburg, for Respondent.

Martha L. Handman, Gaithersburg, Amicus Curiae, for Fraternal Order of Police, Montgomery County Lodge 35, Inc.

Argued before ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, KARWACKI and RAKER, JJ., and ROBERT C. MURPHY, Judge (retired), Specially Assigned.

KARWACKI, Judge.

The principal issue presented in this case is whether an injury sustained by an off-duty police officer while operating a patrol vehicle for personal purposes as permitted by departmental regulations is compensable under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act. Specifically, Petitioner, Montgomery County, seeks to classify the injury suffered by Respondent, police officer Pamela Wade, as falling without the contemplation of Maryland Code (1991 Repl.Vol.), §§ 9-101(b) and 9-501 of the Labor and Employment Article (LE), 1 and thus, not compensable as an accidental injury within the meaning of those statutes. For the reasons recited below, we hold that Wade's injuries fall within the relevant statutory framework and shall affirm the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals.

I.

On September 4, 1988, Officer Wade, while not on scheduled duty or in uniform and while operating her personal patrol vehicle, was hit from behind by another vehicle. At the time of the accident, Officer Wade was on her way to her mother's home; her grandmother was a passenger in the car. Officer Wade sustained upper body injuries that ultimately necessitated surgery. Thereafter, on October 18, 1990, she filed a claim with the Workers' Compensation Commission (hereinafter "the Commission"). The Commission found, in an order dated August 27, 1991, that Officer Wade had "sustained an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment," and, as a result, was entitled to temporary total disability benefits for those injuries. Judicial review of that order, which was sought by Montgomery County, came before a jury in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County on November 2, 1994. Following the court's denial of the parties' motions for judgment at the close of all the evidence and its refusal of a number of the County's requested jury instructions, the jury confirmed the Commission's award. The County appealed the judgment on that verdict to the Court of Special Appeals. After the intermediate appellate court affirmed the judgment in an unreported opinion, we granted the County's petition for certiorari.

II.

Montgomery County police officers are permitted, under certain circumstances and subject to a variety of restrictions, to maintain a personal patrol vehicle, or PPV. According to the County, "[a] PPV is a bargained for benefit of employment available to Montgomery County police officers in the bargaining unit with its use subject to certain guidelines and restrictions." According to the directive of the Montgomery County Police Department, published on July 1, 1985, the PPV program (hereinafter "the program") was established "to provide the highest level of police service to the community by providing greater police visibility on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Montgomery County, and by enhancing the responsiveness of both on-duty and off-duty officers to calls for service." 2 To this end, the program places very stringent procedural and operational regulations upon those who are assigned a vehicle. In operation thereof, the off-duty officers must carry a handgun, handcuffs, and department credentials and equip the PPV with items such as flares, a fire extinguisher, a nightstick, a tactical duty helmet, and a traffic vest and gloves. 3 They must monitor the police radio, and may make traffic stops "only when inaction would reflect unfavorably upon the department." They must "respond to incidents or calls for service which come to their attention through any of the following means: (1) on view; (2) citizens[;] (3) radio monitored activity of a serious nature occurring within reasonable proximity to their location." After responding to a scene while operating the PPV off-duty, the officers must complete an "activity card." A Monthly Activity Summary Report, Unit/Shift Activity Report, and District PPV Summary must also be submitted to departmental officials. Further, the regulations provide that off-duty officers who respond to and work on an incident receive overtime compensation only for that period of time in excess of two hours. Other regulations include prohibitions against taking the vehicle out of the County without authorization and against utilizing it as a form of travel to a place of secondary employment. The PPV may also not be used in furtherance of political activity, and bumper stickers are prohibited without approval. The participating officers must further abide by a number of strict regulations relative to the maintenance of the vehicle, upon which the County imposes mileage and gasoline constraints.

It is undisputed that a benefit inures to the County by virtue of this program. The County concedes as much. Indeed, according to Lt. Hargrove, even while officers are operating their PPVs for purposes other then responding to a call for police assistance, they are still providing a police service, to the extent that the PPV is a visual deterrent to criminal activity. The question remains, however, whether by virtue of the benefits the County receives from the program injuries sustained by participating officers are compensable as arising out of and in the course of the employment within the meaning of the Workers' Compensation Act. It is to resolution of this query that we address our decision.

III.
A.

Under the Workers' Compensation Act (hereinafter "the Act"), a compensable "[a]ccidental personal injury" includes "an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment." LE § 9-101(b)(1). 4 Just what "arises out of" and "in the course of" one's employment has been the subject of considerable dispute, particularly in respect to police officers and other employees who, while not scheduled for duty twenty-four hours a day, in essence must hold themselves ready for duty at a moment's notice by virtue of the nature of their employment. As a threshold matter, ascertaining the nature and extent of an employee's duties is integral to a determination of the compensability vel non of an injury; that is to say, what arises out of and in the course of employment is highly dependant upon the precise nature of the employee's duties. Each case requires individual evaluation.

The County disputes that an officer operating a PPV while off duty for personal purposes may sustain any injury that arises out of and in the course of his or her employment. Because Officer Wade was not responding to a call for service or otherwise performing a police function during the time she was using her PPV on September 4, 1988, the County posits, the requisite causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury is absent. In other words, "a person who has the benefit of an employer provided vehicle (whatever the employer's motivation) and chooses to use that vehicle for personal reasons, is not operating the vehicle in the course of employment." If, however, the County contends, this Court were to determine that there was a sufficient nexus between the employment relationship and its interest in providing PPVs to its police officers such that their use arose out of and in the course of the employment, the reasoning applicable to both the dual purpose doctrine and special errand exception to the "going and coming" rule, while not applicable, would render Officer Wade's injury noncompensable. We do not agree with either proposition.

B.

The mere occurrence of an accident is an insufficient basis upon which to predicate a workers' compensation claim. Richard P. Gilbert & Robert L. Humphreys, Jr., Maryland Workers' Compensation Handbook § 5.2 (2d ed.1993). The policy of the Act is to compensate only those injuries that are occupationally-related, and not those perils common to all mankind or to which the public is generally exposed. See Blake Constr. Co. v. Wells, 245 Md. 282, 289-90, 225 A.2d 857, 862 (1967), and cases cited therein; Maryland Paper Prods. Co. v. Judson, 215 Md. 577, 584, 139 A.2d 219, 222 (1958). When a claimant seeks compensation for an accidental personal injury under LE §§ 9-101(b)(1) and 9-501, he or she must demonstrate that it both arose out of and in the course of the employment. These two conditions precedent are not synonymous; both must be proven in order to bring the claim within the operation of the Act. 5 Pariser Bakery v. Koontz, 239 Md. 586, 590, 212 A.2d 324, 326 (1965).

1.

An injury is said to "arise out of" one's employment when it results from some obligation, condition, or incident of the employment. Knoche v. Cox, 282 Md. 447, 455, 385 A.2d 1179, 1183 (1978) (quoting Department of Correction v. Harris, 232 Md. 180, 184, 192 A.2d 479, 481 (1963)); Watson v. Grimm, 200 Md. 461, 465, 90 A.2d 180, 182 (1952); Consolidated Eng'g Co. v. Feikin, 188 Md. 420, 424, 52 A.2d 913, 916 (1947). It is construed to refer to causal origin. 1 Arthur Larson, The Law of Workmen's Compensation § 6.10 (1996). That is to say, it "requires a determination whether the injury had its origin in (and is therefore attributable to) the claimant's work environment." Gilbert & Humphreys, supra § 5.3 (citing Harris ); see also Rice v. Revere Copper & Brass, Inc., 186 Md. 561, 565, 48 A.2d 166, 167-68 (1946) (It refers to the cause or origin of the injury.). In establishing the nexus...

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    • Maryland State Bar Association Workers' Compensation Manual (MSBA) Chapter One The Maryland Workers' Compensation Act
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    ...Fund, 203 Md. App. 285, 37 A.3d 1053 (2012); Stoskin v. Bd. of Educ., 11 Md. App. 355, 274 A.2d 397 (1971).[105] Montgomery Cty. v. Wade, 345 Md. 1, 690 A.2d 990 (1997); Atl. Ref. Co. v. Forrester, 180 Md. 517, 25 A.2d 667 (1942).[106] Fairchild Space Co. v. Baroffio, 77 Md. App. 494, 551 A......
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