R & T Const. Co. v. Judge, 97

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation594 A.2d 99,323 Md. 514
Decision Date01 September 1990
Docket NumberNo. 97,97
PartiesR & T CONSTRUCTION COMPANY et al. v. Thomas Claude JUDGE

Ronald S. Canter (Wolpoff and Abramson, both on brief), Bethesda, for respondent.

Stan M. Haynes and Rudolph L. Rose, Baltimore (Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, Baltimore, John Noble, Noble and Crow, P.A., Rockville, all on brief), for petitioners.

Argued before MURPHY, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, McAULIFFE and CHASANOW, JJ., and CHARLES E. ORTH, Jr. and MARVIN H. SMITH, Associate Judges of the Court of Appeals (retired), Specially Assigned.


This workers' compensation case concerns the scope of an employer's obligation to provide medical treatment and services under Maryland Code (1957, 1985 Repl.Vol.), Art. 101, § 37(a). The principal issues are whether the complainant, a quadriplegic, is entitled to a specially equipped van, to additional remodeling and enlarging of his residence, and to the cost of electricity consumed in powering certain appliances used by him. The Workmen's Compensation Commission denied all three requests; the Circuit Court for Montgomery County reversed, and the Court of Special Appeals affirmed that reversal. R & T Constr. Co. v. Judge, 82 Md.App. 700, 573 A.2d 96 (1990).

Section 37(a) provides in relevant part:

"Employer to provide medical, etc., treatment and services.--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...."

The claimant, Thomas Claude Judge (Judge), fell out of a third story window on October 28, 1981, while constructing townhouses in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The petitioner, R & T Construction Company (R & T), is a Virginia based corporation which was Judge's statutory employer at the time of the accident. The insurer is Maryland Casualty Company. Judge, who was born November 2, 1929, is a resident of Virginia.

As a result of the accidental injury, Judge is completely paralyzed from the neck down. He is confined to his bed or to his wheelchair. He is attended round-the-clock by nurses working one at a time, in shifts. Judge's paralysis includes his bladder, his bowels, and even the involuntary control of his blood vessels. As a result of the latter, his body cannot regulate its temperature. Judge is "ventilator-dependent," meaning that he is unable to breathe without the assistance of a machine, referred to as a "respirator" and as a "ventilator." Judge has at least two ventilators, a stationary one that sits by his bed, and a portable one that is carried on his wheelchair. His electrically powered, motorized, tiltable wheelchair is almost twenty-seven inches wide. Judge uses the wheelchair in a reclining position, in contrast with sitting upright in it.

Judge pursued workers' compensation in Virginia to an award against R & T rendered in February of 1982. He was sent to the Rocky Mountain Regional Spinal Injury Center located at Craig Hospital in Colorado, a nationally known facility specializing in the management and care of ventilator dependent quadriplegics. Judge's wife, Patricia Judge, was trained at Craig Hospital in caring for Judge. From the time of his release, Judge has lived with his wife at their detached residence in Dale City, Virginia.

In December 1982 the Supreme Court of Virginia held that under the Virginia workers' compensation statute the employer's obligations for medical care and vocational rehabilitation did not include structural improvements to the residence of a paraplegic who was confined to a wheelchair. Low Splint Coal Co. v. Bolling, 224 Va. 400, 297 S.E.2d 665 (1982). The Virginia Industrial Commission relied on Low Splint Coal Co. to deny, in February 1983, an application by Judge for a specially modified van to be permanently situated at his home. The Virginia Industrial Commission concluded that the requested van was "not any form of necessary medical attention."

Effective July 1, 1983, the Virginia legislature authorized the Industrial Commission to require employers, where medically necessary, to furnish wheelchairs, lifts, adjustable beds, and modification of the claimant's principal home at a total cost not to exceed $10,000. See Va.Code Ann. § 65.1-88 (1980, 1984 Supp.). Judge applied to the Virginia Industrial Commission for further home modifications. Maryland Casualty Company had already expended nearly $9,500 for wheelchairs for Judge and $2,400 in home modifications, consisting of a ramp to the front door and the widening of certain doors. The Virginia Commission held in March 1984 that this statute was retroactive, so that the insurer had no further obligation under Virginia law.

Meanwhile, Judge filed a claim in October 1983 with the Maryland Workmen's Compensation Commission (the Commission) seeking a specially equipped van, payment of electric bills, and further modifications to his residence. That claim was held to be timely filed. Judge v. R & T Constr. Co., 68 Md.App. 57, 509 A.2d 1236, cert. denied, 307 Md. 433, 514 A.2d 1211 (1986).

At the hearing before the Commission in this matter, Judge and his wife testified. Testimony of Judge's last witness, a rehabilitation consultant, was terminated by the Commissioner after counsel for Judge disclaimed a vocational rehabilitation theory and proffered the balance of the testimony would cover the psychological responses of quadriplegics. The Commission's award found that Judge was "not entitled to payment for increases in electric bills, a van, and further modifications to his home pursuant to [§ 37]."

On appeal, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County at first ruled on motion that it would remand this case to the Commission. Then the circuit court reversed itself. That court and the parties interpreted the Commission's order to hold, as a matter of law, that § 37 did not encompass claims of the type asserted by Judge. The circuit court ruled, as a matter of law, that the types of claims that Judge was asserting could be cognizable under § 37.

This case thereafter was tried before a jury. Judge, his wife, a psychologist, an architect, and, by deposition, an orthopedic surgeon from Craig Hospital testified. Judge presented no evidence to particularize the cost of his claims.

The court submitted three issues to the jury, namely, whether Judge was entitled to each of the types of benefits sought. The jury was told that it must find that each "benefit is reasonable and necessary to cure or relieve illness or disability of the claimant caused by the work related injury." The jury answered yes to each issue.

The circuit court entered a judgment reversing the Commission and ordering this case remanded to the Commission "for the entry of an order consistent with this decision and for further proceedings required by this decision."

R & T and its insurer appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. In addition to raising the three issues described above, they also argued that the denials by the Virginia Industrial Commission of the benefits requested by Judge in the instant matter prevented, by operation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, U.S. Const. art. IV, § 1, or under Maryland public policy, the Commission from awarding the same benefits.

On the issue of the scope of § 37 the Court of Special Appeals held that increased electrical costs were recoverable. It also held that

"given an appropriate factual predicate, § 37(a) may permit the ... Commission to order modifications to an injured worker's home, as well as providing, for the use of the injured worker, a specially modified and equipped van. Indeed, we believe that the latter fits quite comfortably within the Maryland statute--as an 'other prosthetic appliance.' "

R & T Constr. Co. v. Judge, 82 Md.App. at 716, 573 A.2d at 103 (footnote omitted). R & T's full faith and credit argument was rejected.

We granted R & T's petition for certiorari, 321 Md. 46, 580 A.2d 1066. Additional facts will be stated as we address various issues in this opinion.


We reject the full faith and credit argument advanced by R & T for the reasons given by the Court of Special Appeals in part 4 of its opinion. R & T Constr. Co., 82 Md.App. at 722-26, 573 A.2d at 106-08.

R & T argues, however, that the Court of Special Appeals decided "the crucial constitutional issue ... without any consideration of the persuasiveness of the respective reasons supporting the various viewpoints on this issue." Reply Brief of Petitioners at 6.

The Supreme Court of the United States, and not this Court, is the final arbiter of the meaning and application of the Constitution of the United States. R & T's submission is that this Court should return to the rule of Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Hunt, 320 U.S. 430, 64 S.Ct. 208, 88 L.Ed. 149 (1943), under which the orders of the Virginia Industrial Commission on the issues presented here would bar benefits under § 37(a) of the Maryland act. The Magnolia rule was severely limited in Industrial Comm'n of Wisconsin v. McCartin, 330 U.S. 622, 67 S.Ct. 886, 91 L.Ed. 1140 (1947), which held that "[o]nly some unmistakable language by a state legislature or judiciary would warrant" construing the award in the state where the employment contract was made as "completely exclusive [and] designed to preclude any recovery by proceedings brought in another state for injuries received there...." Id. at 627-28, 67 S.Ct. at 889, 91 L.Ed. at 1143. In the Court's most recent venture into this field, Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Co., 448 U.S. 261, 100 S.Ct. 2647, 65 L.Ed.2d 757 (1980), there was no majority opinion. Consequently, McCartin stands unreversed. ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
28 cases
  • Breitenbach v. NB Handy Co., 28
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 8, 2001
    ...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.......
  • Simmons v. Comfort Suites, 241, September Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 31, 2009
    ...it was not "medical treatment" pursuant to the statute. In support of its position, Comfort Suites cited R & T Constr. Co. v. Judge, 323 Md. 514, 531, 594 A.2d 99 (1991), for the proposition that modifications to a home constitute medical treatment only when they provide "access for necessi......
  • Maryland Com'n on Human Relations v. Downey Communications, Inc., 931
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1995
    ...of law); R & T Construction Co. v. Judge, 82 Md.App. 700, 725-26, 573 A.2d 96 (1990), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds, 323 Md. 514, 594 A.2d 99 (1991) (finding of Virginia Industrial Commission not entitled to preclusive effect in Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission, ......
  • Philip Electronics North America v. Wright, 12
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1997
    ...may be interpreted in favor of the injured claimant. R & T Construction v. Judge, 82 Md.App. 700, 709, 573 A.2d 96, 100 (1990), modified, 323 Md. 514, 594 A.2d 99 (1991). Bearing these principles in mind, we now turn to the case at This case presents a straightforward question of law. On No......
  • 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