R & T Const. Co. v. Judge

Citation573 A.2d 96,82 Md.App. 700
Decision Date01 September 1989
Docket NumberNo. 1300,1300
PartiesR & T CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, et al. v. Thomas Claude JUDGE. ,
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

John Noble (Alexander J. Crow and Noble and Crow, P.A., on the brief), Rockville, for appellants.

Ronald S. Canter (Wolpoff and Abramson, on the brief), Rockville, for appellee.

Argued before GILBERT, C.J., and ROBERT M. BELL and WENNER, JJ.


This is an appeal by R & T Construction Company and its insurer, Maryland Casualty Company, appellants, from a judgment in favor of Thomas C. Judge, appellee, entered, on a jury verdict, by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. It raises four issues, namely:

1. Whether the lower court erred in denying appellant's motion for judgment and in ruling that, as a matter of law, further home modifications, a specially equipped van for non-medical purposes and increased electrical expenses were covered under Maryland Annotated Code, Art. 101, § 37.

2. Whether the lower court erred in allowing Dr. Robert Menter to testify that the appellee is in need of a van modified for non-medical purposes.

3. Whether the lower court erred in allowing a psychologist to testify as to claimant's need for home modifications and his need of a van modified for his use for non-medical purposes.

4. Whether the lower court erred in ruling that the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission had jurisdiction over this case.

We answer each of the questions in the negative, thus, we will affirm the lower court's judgment.

The facts are, for the most part, undisputed. Appellee, while employed as a construction worker for a Virginia based employer, was seriously injured in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. The accident occurred in Gaithersburg, Maryland in October, 1981. As a result of the injuries he received, appellee was rendered a respirator-dependent quadriplegic, requiring around-the-clock nursing care.

Although he initially filed a claim with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission, he later voluntarily withdrew it, in order to file a claim with the Virginia Industrial Accident Commission. Appellee was, and is, a resident of Virginia. The Virginia Commission "awarded ... Judge compensation benefits during the course of his disability, and further awarded him medical benefits for as long as required."

Notwithstanding that appellants had made certain modifications to appellee's home--constructing a ramp and installing air conditioning--and supplied appellee with a specially equipped van to provide transportation for medical purposes, on two subsequent occasions, appellee filed applications with the Virginia Commission seeking additional benefits. On the first occasion, he sought to purchase "a van to be permanently situated at his home on a 24 hour per day basis that would allow him to leave his home and ultimately give him more freedom of movement...." On the second occasion, he sought additional modifications to his home, which would "make it accessible for his uses as a wheelchair bound quadriplegic accident victim." Judge v. R & T Construction, 68 Md.App. 57, 59, 509 A.2d 1236, cert. denied, 307 Md. 433, 514 A.2d 1211 (1986). The Virginia Commission denied both applications. 1 The ruling on the home modifications was premised on the employer and insurer having exceeded the statutory liability limits. Appellee did not seek as he did here, reimbursement of the increase in utility expenses necessitated by the life support and other medically required equipment he must use.

Appellee filed another compensation claim in Maryland. 2 In his application, appellee sought from the Maryland Commission the same relief that the Virginia Commission had just denied, namely, additional modifications to his home for purposes of making it wheelchair accessible and a modified van for transportation purposes other than medical appointments. In addition, he sought reimbursement of the increases in electrical expense necessitated by the life support systems and other equipment he had to use. Although the Commission determined that it had jurisdiction to entertain the claim and that it was not barred by limitations or precluded from acting by Article 101 § 21(c)(4), 3 it found "that the claimant is not entitled to payment for increases in electric bills, a van, and further modifications to his home pursuant to the provisions of Art. 101, sub-section 37."

Appellee appealed to the circuit court, challenging only the Commission's interpretation of § 37(a). Appellants likewise appealed; they challenged the Commission's determination that it had jurisdiction over the case. Both sides moved for summary judgment. Appellants sought summary judgment on the jurisdictional issue and appellee sought partial summary judgment with respect to the interpretation of § 37(a). The circuit court denied appellants' motion, but granted appellee's. It entered partial summary judgment, on the grounds presented, in favor of appellee. The case was then set for jury trial "for the purpose of determining the extent of benefits, if any, which the claimant should receive, under § 37 of the Act...." At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned special verdicts in favor of appellee, finding that he was entitled to home modifications, a modified van, and reimbursement for increased utility costs. This appeal followed.

As phrased by appellants, the first issue presented has two aspects. The first involves the interpretation of § 37(a). As to it, appellants maintained below, as they do on appeal, that the court erred in interpreting § 37(a) to include "non-medical-type treatment, apparatus, and the like." The second aspect relates to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's verdict. As to it, appellants assert that the evidence presented at trial was wholly insufficient to support the jury's verdicts. We will address each aspect separately.


Maryland Code Annotated Art. 101, § 37(a) provides:

(a) 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 applicances as may be required by the Commission, provided, however, that any order or award of the Commission, under this subsection, shall not be construed to reopen any case, or permit any previous award to be changed or modified, except as provided in § 40(c) and 40(d) of this article.

In Harris v. Janco Enterprises, 53 Md.App. 674, 677, 455 A.2d 453 (1983), this Court, referring to the appropriate interpretation of § 37(a), observed: "It is perfectly clear that this language deals with medical services necessary or desirable to treat the effects of the injury, and not with services rendered by physicians solely for the purpose of evaluating the extent of disability in order to present testimony on that issue." At issue in that case was, as is obvious from the above, the question whether § 37(a) covered fees paid to an evaluating physician for his or her testimony at a hearing. Except as to the issue directly presented, the court was not called upon to interpret what constitutes "medical services". As such, it had no occasion to address the meaning of "other attendance", "apparatus", and "other prosthetic appliances". In fact, this issue has never been addressed by any Maryland court. It is our task to undertake that interpretation now.

We approach this task fully aware that, consistent with Maryland Code Annotated Art. 101 § 63, "this article shall be so interpreted and construed as to effectuate its general purpose"--as liberally in favor of injured employees as its provisions will permit in order to effectuate its benevolent purposes. Soper v. Montgomery County, 294 Md. 331, 335, 449 A.2d 1158 (1982); Howard County Association for Retarded Citizens v. Walls, 288 Md. 526, 530, 418 A.2d 1210 (1980); W.C. & A.N. Miller Development Company v. Honaker, 40 Md.App. 185, 189, 388 A.2d 562 (1978), aff'd, 285 Md. 216, 401 A.2d 1013 (1979). Furthermore, where a provision of the Workers' Compensation Act is ambiguous, the uncertainty or conflict should be resolved in favor of the claimant. Ryder Truck Lines v. Kennedy, 296 Md. 528, 537, 463 A.2d 850 (1983). Coats & Clark's Sales Corp. v. Stewart, 39 Md.App. 10, 16-17, 383 A.2d 67 (1978); Keene v. Insley, 26 Md.App. 1, 11-12, 337 A.2d 168 (1975). Of course, "neither statutory language nor legislative intent can be stretched beyond the fair implication of the statute's word or its purpose," Soper v. Montgomery County, 294 Md. at 335, 449 A.2d 1158, in order to create ambiguity or conflict. Rather, any construction of the Workers' Compensation Act should take account of its clear meaning. In other words, a construction should not disregard the plain language of a provision of the Act in order to create a conflict of ambiguity so that the provision may be interpreted in favor of the injured worker. See Crowner v. Baltimore United Butchers Association, 226 Md. 606, 610, 175 A.2d 7 (1961).

As we have seen, we have construed § 37(a) as dealing with "medical services". Neither this Court nor the Court of Appeals has, however, been faced with the question of what "medical services" specifically entails. On the other hand, a noted commentator has observed that

"Medical benefits ordinarily include not only medical and hospital services and nursing care, which may be compensable even when supplied at home by a member of claimants' family but also necessary incidentals such as transportation, appartus, supplies, and sometimes even special housing facilities."

2 Larson, Workmen's Compensation Law (1989), § 61.00. See also Squeo v. Comfort...

To continue reading

Request your trial
11 cases
  • Breitenbach v. NB Handy Co.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • November 8, 2001
    ...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 asc......
  • Lone v. Montgomery County
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1990
    ...weighing of various alternatives." Judge v. R and T Construction Co., 68 Md.App. 57, 60, 509 A.2d 1236 (1986), aff'd after remand, 82 Md.App. 700, 573 A.2d 96, cert. granted, 321 Md. 46, 580 A.2d 1066 (1990). When a court must exercise discretion, failure to do so is usually reversible erro......
  • Maryland Com'n on Human Relations v. Downey Communications, Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 1, 1995
    ...to its previous interpretation of regulations, when previous interpretation was based on an error 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 Indu......
  • Philip Electronics North America v. Wright
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • September 1, 1997
    ...Act's provisions where none exists so that a provision 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......
  • 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