Queen v. Agger

Decision Date26 March 1980
Docket NumberNo. 58,58
Citation287 Md. 342,412 A.2d 733
PartiesMichael J. QUEEN v. Eloise Moore AGGER.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Vernon G. Haas, Oxon Hill (James A. Cleaver, Oxon Hill, on the brief), for appellant.

Oliver Denier Long, Washington, D. C., for appellee.

Argued before MURPHY, C. J., and SMITH, DIGGES, ELDRIDGE, ORTH, * COLE and DAVIDSON, JJ.

DAVIDSON, Judge.

Maryland's Workmen's Compensation Act, Md.Code (1957, 1979 Repl. Vol.), Art. 101, §§ 1 101, effective 16 April 1914, is designed to protect workers and their families from hardships inflicted by work-related injuries. Edgewood Nursing Home v. Maxwell, 282 Md. 422, 426, 384 A.2d 748, 751 (1978); Solvuca v. Ryan & Reilly Co., 131 Md. 265, 268, 284, 101 A. 710, 711, 716 (1917). More particularly, it is designed to provide workers with compensation for loss of earning capacity resulting from accidental injury, disease or death arising out of and in the course of employment, to provide vocational rehabilitation, and to provide adequate medical services. Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard, Inc. v. Damasiewicz, 187 Md. 474, 480, 50 A.2d 799, 802 (1947); Liggett & Myers Tobacco Co. v. Goslin, 163 Md. 74, 80, 160 A. 804, 807 (1932). See Report of the National Commission on State Workmen's Compensation Laws (1972).

With respect to medical services, § 37(a) provides in pertinent part:

"In addition to the compensation provided for herein the employer shall promptly provide for an injured employee, for such period as the nature of the injury may require, such medical, surgical or other attendance or treatment, nurse and hospital services, medicines, crutches, apparatus, artificial hands, arms, feet and legs and other prosthetic appliances as may be required by the Commission . . . ." (Emphasis added.)

Section 37(e) provides:

"The Commission shall have full power to adopt rules and regulations with respect to furnishing medical, nurse, hospital services and medicine to injured employees entitled thereto and for the payment therefor." (Emphasis added.)

Section 37(c) provides:

"All fees and other charges for such treatment and services shall be subject to regulation by the Commission, and shall be limited to such charges as prevail in the same community for similar treatment of injured persons of a like standard of living." (Emphasis added.)

Section 57 provides in pertinent part:

"No person shall charge or collect any compensation . . . for services or treatment rendered or supplies furnished pursuant to § 37 of this article, unless the same be approved by the Commission." (Emphasis added.)

This case presents the question whether, under § 57, a health care provider may enforce a contract the result of which is to require an eligible injured employee to pay an amount greater than the amount approved by the Commission and paid by the employer or its insurer for services which the Commission requires the employer to provide under § 37.

The facts in the record, the concessions made by the appellee's counsel in his brief and at oral argument, and the rational inferences deduced from these facts and concessions, show that the appellant, Mr. Queen (claimant), was injured in an industrial accident. He was treated by a neurosurgeon whose services were provided by the employer. As a result of the nature of the claimant's injuries, the neurosurgeon referred him to the appellee, Mrs. Agger (health care provider), a licensed clinical social worker, for psychotherapy. At the beginning of treatment on 3 August 1976, she and the claimant entered into an oral contract in which she agreed to treat him, and he agreed to be responsible for the payment for her services.

During the course of treatment, she learned that the claimant had been injured in an industrial accident that was covered by workmen's compensation. In addition, the claimant told her he hoped that because his injury was covered, he would be reimbursed by the employer's insurer. Indeed, he asked the health care provider to attend a Commission hearing with him.

Between 3 August 1976 and 28 January 1978, she provided approximately 160 hours of treatment, and her total bill was $5,200. She received $3,160 from the employer's insurer, which apparently was the amount approved by a Commission award. As of 17 August 1978, $2,040 remained unpaid.

In the District Court of Maryland sitting in Montgomery County, the health care provider sued the claimant to enforce the oral contract and to recover the difference between the amount she had charged and the amount approved by the Commission and paid by the employer's insurer. The court entered judgment in favor of the health care provider. The Circuit Court for Montgomery County affirmed. Motions for Revision of Judgment were denied.

The claimant filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. The health care provider neither filed an answer, Md. Rule 811b, nor a cross-petition for certiorari, Md. Rule 812b. This Court granted a writ of certiorari. 1 We shall reverse.

The language of § 57 is clear and unambiguous. Health care providers rendering services which, under § 37, the Commission requires an employer to provide are prohibited from charging or collecting an amount greater than that approved by the Commission. This prohibition effectuates the statutory purpose of protecting the economic integrity of injured employees by preventing unreasonable or excessive charges for health care services. See Bell v. Samaritan Medical Clinic, Inc., 60 Cal.App.3d 486, 491, 131 Cal.Rptr. 582, 586 (1976); Szold v. Outlet Embroidery Supply Co., 274 N.Y. 271, 279, 8 N.E.2d 858, 860 (1937); Worley v. Pipes, 229 N.C. 465, 472, 50 S.E.2d 504, 509 (1948). A contract which permits a health care provider to collect an amount for services rendered under § 37 which is greater than that approved by the Commission violates the statute. Contracts which violate statutes will not be enforced. See, e. g., Downing Development Corp. v. Brazelton, 253 Md. 390, 398-400, 252 A.2d 849, 854-55 (1969) (contract for sale of corporate assets); Thorpe v. Carte, 252 Md. 523, 528-30, 250 A.2d 618, 621-22 (1969) (contract for division of commission between licensed...

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    • United States
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    ...divorced. We note also that the purpose of the Workmen's Compensation Act is to assist workers and their families, Queen v. Agger, 287 Md. 342, 343, 412 A.2d 733 (1980), and that the Marital Property Act should be construed liberally to effect its broad remedial purpose. Harper v. Harper, 2......
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    ......." Howard Cty. Assoc. for Retarded Citizens, Inc. v. Walls , 288 Md. 526, 531, 418 A.2d 1210 (1980) (citing Queen v. Agger , 287 Md. 342, 343, 412 A.2d 733 (1980) ). Even so, all sections of the Act "must be read together, in conjunction with one another, to discern the true intent of th......
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    ...divorced. We note also that the purpose of the Workmen's Compensation Act is to assist workers and their families, Queen v. Agger, 287 Md. 342, 343, 412 A.2d 733 (1980), and that the Marital Property Act should be construed liberally to effect its broad remedial purpose. Harper v. Harper, 2......
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