Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. v. Kennedy, 42

Decision Date15 August 1983
Docket NumberNo. 42,42
Citation296 Md. 528,463 A.2d 850
PartiesRYDER TRUCK LINES, INC. v. Donna KENNEDY et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Raymond A. Richards, Baltimore (Rollins, Smalkin, Weston, Richards & Mackie, Baltimore, on the brief), for appellant.

William Harris Zinman, Baltimore, for appellees.


COLE, Judge.

In this case, we must determine whether Md.Code (1957, 1979 Repl.Vol.), Art. 101, § 21(c)(4) bars a deceased employee's dependents from receiving compensation in Maryland merely because unrelated claimants also asserting that they were dependents of the deceased received an award under the workmen's compensation law of a foreign jurisdiction.

Ernest John Grass, Jr., was a truck driver employed by Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. (Ryder) at its place of business in Hagerstown, Maryland. On August 23, 1979, while operating his employer's vehicle in Virginia, he was killed in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment. At the time of his death, Grass lived in Maryland and maintained a home with Donna Kennedy, Ginger Kennedy (the minor child of Ernest Grass, Jr., and Donna Kennedy) and Stephen Kennedy (the minor child of Donna Kennedy and her former husband, Charles Kennedy). However, at this same time, he had a lawful wife, Domenica Grass, and a minor daughter, Teresa Grass, who resided in Florida. Ernest Grass contributed to the support of his wife and their daughter but apparently fully supported Donna, Ginger and Stephen Kennedy at their home in Maryland.

Donna Kennedy filed claims before the Maryland Workmen's Compensation Commission on behalf of Ginger Kennedy on October 25, 1979, on her own behalf on January 11, 1980, and added the name of Stephen Kennedy as a claimant before the Commission on August 8, 1980.

On December 5, 1979, Domenica Grass and her daughter filed for survivors' benefits with the Industrial Accident Commission of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Donna Kennedy, through counsel, had notice of the Virginia proceeding but elected not to participate therein. The Virginia Commission rendered an award to Domenica Grass and Teresa Grass of survivors' benefits of $199.00 per week for 500 weeks.

Thereafter, Domenica Grass and Teresa Grass filed a claim with the Maryland Commission alleging total dependency. Both the Grass and Kennedy claims were heard by the Maryland Commission on August 8, 1980, at which time Ryder challenged the Kennedy claim of total dependency and sought credit for the sum granted on the Grass claim in the Virginia proceeding, which was to be paid by its Virginia workmen's compensation insurer. Ryder ultimately raised Section 21(c)(4) of Article 101 as a defense.

On December 24, 1980, the Maryland Commission passed its award in favor of the Kennedys at a rate of $220.00 per week; denied any compensation to Domenica Grass and her daughter; and disallowed any credit for the sums paid under the Grass award from the Virginia Commission. Ryder appealed to the Circuit Court for Washington County which affirmed. Ryder then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals but we granted certiorari prior to consideration by that court to consider the important and novel question presented.

Ryder contends that because Domenica Grass and her daughter recovered as total dependents of the deceased in Virginia, Donna Kennedy and her two children should not also be able to recover as total dependents in Maryland. However, because the Virginia and Maryland statutes differ markedly in their treatment of claimants, both the Grasses and Kennedys have been able to recover as full dependents of the decedent in Virginia and Maryland, respectively.

The Virginia Workmen's compensation statute provides that a wife who has not abandoned her husband and is actually dependent upon him is conclusively presumed to be wholly dependent. See Va.Code § 65.1-66(1) (1950, 1980 Repl.Vol.); Caudle-Hyatt, Inc. v. Mixon, 220 Va. 495, 260 S.E.2d 193 (1979). The decedent's child also is conclusively presumed to be his dependent. 1 Persons not conclusively presumed to be wholly dependent may only recover by demonstrating their actual dependency. See Va.Code § 65.1-67 (1950, 1980 Repl.Vol.); see generally Glassco v. Glassco, 195 Va. 239, 77 S.E.2d 843 (1953); Virginia Electric & Power Co. v. Place, 150 Va. 562, 143 S.E. 756 (1928). Generally, dependents of the deceased employee are entitled to compensation equal to two thirds of his average weekly wages (with a maximum of 100%, and a minimum of 25%, of the Commonwealth's average weekly wage) for a period of four hundred weeks. However, persons conclusively presumed to be wholly dependent under § 65.1-66(1), (2) and (3) of the Virginia Code are entitled to compensation at the same rate for five hundred weeks. See Va.Code § 65.1-65 (1950, 1983 Cum.Supp.). Under normal circumstances there is no provision for payments to extend past this time if the employee's dependents cannot become self-supporting. 2 If more than one person is wholly dependent, then death benefits must be divided among them. 3 Neither the statute nor case law clarifies precisely how the award is to be divided. However, it is obvious that if the Kennedys had proceeded in Virginia they would have had to demonstrate their total dependency upon the deceased employee and then share the award with Domenica and Teresa Grass, who only received partial support from the deceased, yet under Virginia law were conclusively presumed to be totally dependent.

In Maryland, dependency is the decisive factor in determining who will receive a compensation award. 4 Persons determined to be wholly dependent are entitled to receive payments at the rate of two thirds of the deceased employee's average weekly wages (not to exceed 100% of the state average weekly wage, nor be less than $25 per week unless the employee's actual wages were less) to continue during total dependency, but not to exceed $45,000. See Md.Code (1957, 1979 Repl.Vol.), Art. 101, § 36(8)(a). After this sum has been exhausted, a surviving wife or husband who remains wholly dependent may continue to receive payments at the same rate. See id. 5 Section 36(8)(d) also provides that payments to dependent children shall continue until the child is eighteen years of age, unless the child is attending school on a full-time basis wherein such payments shall continue for a period not in excess of five years. Benefits may also continue for a child beyond the age of eighteen when said child is wholly dependent and incapable of self-support by reason of mental or physical disability or other sufficient reason as determined by the Commission.

In Maryland, a spouse only receiving partial support would be a partial dependent, entitled to weekly payments not to exceed $17,500. See Md.Code (1957, 1979 Repl.Vol.), Art. 101, § 36(8)(b). If there are both wholly and partly dependent persons, the Commission is responsible for apportioning the compensation award among these claimants. 6

Thus, under the law of Maryland or Virginia alone Ryder or its Virginia insurer would have had to pay no more than two thirds of Mr. Grass' average weekly wages. Ryder's main thrust is that because Domenica Grass and her daughter recovered almost $100,000 in Virginia as dependents of Ernest Grass, the Kennedys should be barred in Maryland from recovery as total dependents. Ryder maintains that to require it to pay employee's dependents again would be double recovery, precluded by § 21(c)(4) of Article 101. 7 The pertinent part of that section reads:

If an employee or the dependents of an employee shall receive compensation or damages under the laws of any other state, nothing herein contained shall be construed so as to permit a total compensation for the same injury greater than is provided for in this article.

We have repeated time and again that the cardinal principle of statutory construction is to determine the legislative intent. To do this we look first to the language in the statute. If it is clear, then we need look no further. See Utt v. State, 293 Md. 271, 443 A.2d 582 (1982); Vallario v. State Roads Comm'n, 290 Md. 2, 426 A.2d 1384 (1981); Briggs v. State, 289 Md. 23, 421 A.2d 1369 (1980); Department of Public Safety v. LeVan, 288 Md. 533, 419 A.2d 1052 (1980); Dorsey v. Beads, 288 Md. 161, 416 A.2d 739 (1980); State v. Berry, 287 Md. 491, 413 A.2d 557 (1980); Messitte v. Colonial Mortgage Serv., 287 Md. 289, 411 A.2d 1051 (1980); Board v. Stephans, 286 Md. 384, 408 A.2d 1017 (1979); Harbor Island Marina v. Calvert Co., 286 Md. 303, 407 A.2d 738 (1979); Mauzy v. Hornbeck, 285 Md. 84, 400 A.2d 1091 (1979); Massage Parlors, Inc. v. City of Balto., 284 Md. 490, 398 A.2d 52 (1979); Balto. Gas & Elec. Co. v. Board, 278 Md. 26, 358 A.2d 241 (1976); Baltimore County v. White, 235 Md. 212, 201 A.2d 358 (1964). If it is unclear and ambiguous, we seek other aids in uncovering the legislative intent or in recognizing the legislative purpose. See Bledsoe v. Bledsoe, 294 Md. 183, 448 A.2d 353 (1982); Briggs v. State, supra; State v. Berry, supra; Brown v. Brown, 287 Md. 273, 412 A.2d 396 (1980); Fairchild v. Maritime Air Serv., 274 Md. 181, 333 A.2d 313 (1975); Gatewood v. State, 244 Md. 609, 224 A.2d 677 (1966); Walker v. Montgomery County, 244 Md. 98, 223 A.2d 181 (1966); Truitt v. Board of Public Works, 243 Md. 375, 221 A.2d 370 (1966); Md. Medical Service v. Carver, 238 Md. 466, 209 A.2d 582 (1965).

In our view, the language is ambiguous because it does not clearly indicate whether the dependent receiving an award in a foreign state must be the same dependent in this State or may be a different and unrelated dependent before the operation of the statute is triggered. Therefore, we must look further for guidance.

Initially, we note that the history of the statute is not helpful. This language has been included in the workmen's compensation statute, essentially...

To continue reading

Request your trial
28 cases
  • Stebbing v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 16, 1984
    ...sense of words chosen; there is no need to look further or consider rules of statutory construction. See Ryder Truck Lines v. Kennedy, 296 Md. 528, 535-536, 463 A.2d 850 (1983); Blum v. Blum, 295 Md. 135, 140, 453 A.2d 824 (1983); Mauzy v. Hornbeck, 285 Md. 84, 93, 400 A.2d 1091 (1979), and......
  • Lodowski v. State
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • April 23, 1985
    ... ... Davis v. North Carolina, 384 U.S. 737, 741-42, 86 S.Ct. 1761, 1764-65, 16 L.Ed.2d 895 (1966); ... 70 would be acceptable, however, if [the] lines [invalidating the sentence] were deleted. The ... 277, 283, 477 A.2d 1174, 1177 (1984); Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. v. Kennedy, 296 Md. 528, 535, ... ...
  • Breitenbach v. NB Handy Co.
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Appeals
    • November 8, 2001
    ...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. ......
  • Weatherly v. Great Coastal Express Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • September 19, 2005
    ...on him and therefore should continue to receive dependency benefits. The opinion of the Court of Appeals in Ryder Truck Lines, Inc. v. Kennedy, 296 Md. 528, 463 A.2d 850 (1983), instructs us about step two. In that case, Ernest John Grass, Jr. ("Grass"), was lawfully married to one woman bu......
  • 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