Temporary Staffing v. Haines

Decision Date11 January 2001
Docket NumberNo. 54,54
Citation362 Md. 388,765 A.2d 602
PartiesTEMPORARY STAFFING, INC., et al. v. J.J. HAINES & COMPANY, INC., et al.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Howard P. Miller (Nancy J. Courson of Dirska & Levin, on brief), Columbia, for appellants.

Angus R. Everton (Alan M. Carlo of Morgan, Shelsby, Carlo, Downs & Everton, P.A., on brief), Hunt Valley, for appellees.

Argued before BELL, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RAKER, WILNER, CATHELL, HARRELL, and LAWRENCE F. RODOWSKY, (Retired, specially assigned), JJ.

CATHELL, Judge.

Mark A. Jewell was injured on December 31, 1992, while at work at J.J. Haines & Company, Inc. (hereinafter J.J. Haines), appellee. Mr. Jewell was sent to work at J.J. Haines by Temporary Staffing, Inc. (hereinafter TSI), appellant, pursuant to an agreement between the parties whereby TSI, a general employer, was to supply employees to J.J. Haines, a special employer.1 Mr. Jewell filed a claim form with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission (hereinafter Commission) on January 22, 1993. A hearing was held before the Commission on December 22, 1993 to determine the correct employer and insurer. An Order issued by the Commission on February 24, 1994 stated "that at the time of the aforesaid accidental injury, the correct employer was J.J. Haines & Co., Inc., and the correct insurer was Pennsylvania Manufacturing Indemnity."2

J.J. Haines filed a petition for judicial review with the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. By Order dated March 23, 1995, the Circuit Court reversed the decision of the Commission and ruled that J.J. Haines and TSI were co-employers in this matter. The case was remanded back to the Commission for passage of an Order conforming to the findings of the Circuit Court. On May 15, 1998, the Commission, ruling on the liability of the co-employers, without considering the agreement between J.J. Haines and TSI, ordered that both employers and their insurers were jointly liable in equal shares.

J.J. Haines sought judicial review at the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Both J.J. Haines and TSI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. The Circuit Court granted J.J. Haines' Motion for Summary Judgment and remanded the case to the Commission for passage of an Order finding that TSI was primarily liable for payment of any award in this case and that J.J. Haines was to provide excess coverage only in the event TSI became unable to meet its obligation. TSI filed a Notice of Appeal to the Court of Special Appeals. We granted certiorari on our own motion prior to consideration by the Court of Special Appeals. TSI has presented two questions:

1. Whether the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County erred in its Order finding that Temporary Staffing, Inc. (TSI) and Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company are primarily liable for payment of any award in this case and that J.J. Haines & Company, Inc. (J.J. Haines) and Royal Insurance Company are to provide excess coverage only in the event that TSI and Hartford are unable to meet those obligations[?]
2. Whether the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County erred in finding that Mark Jewell was an employee of TSI rather than an employee of both TSI and J.J. Haines as was previously decided by the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County[?]

We do not directly answer either question because the Circuit Court made factual determinations that should have been remanded to the Commission for its consideration. We shall, therefore, remand the case to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County with instructions for that court to remand the case to the Commission in order to allow the Commission to make a determination in compliance with this opinion. We shall, however, address the law relative to the questions presented for the guidance of the Commission upon remand.

Facts

TSI3 sent Mr. Jewell to work at J.J. Haines. He was working at J.J. Haines when he was injured on the job. J.J. Haines had learned of the employee services provided by TSI through a sales call from representatives of TSI. The TSI representatives had also provided J.J. Haines with literature about the benefits a company could receive by using temporary employees from TSI. According to the literature, one of these benefits was that TSI would be responsible for workers' compensation insurance.4

During the time that Mr. Jewell was working at J.J. Haines, TSI billed J.J. Haines $8.75 per hour and TSI paid Mr. Jewell $5.60 per hour.5 Mr. Jewell was injured on December 31, 1992, while working at J.J. Haines, when a tractor trailer backed into him, causing injuries to his arm, chest, and pelvis. The Commission issued an order on February 24, 1994 stating that:

The Commission finds that as a result of the accidental injury on 12/31/92, the claimant was temporarily totally disabled from 12/31/92 to 6/10/93. The Commission finds on the issues presented that at the time of the aforesaid accidental injury, the correct employer was J.J. Haines & Co., Inc., and the correct insurer was Pennsylvania Manufacturing Indemnity and shall reserve on permanent partial disability....

J.J. Haines and Pennsylvania Manufacturing Indemnity appealed this Order to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Before the appeal was heard by the Circuit Court, all parties to the appeal entered a stipulation stating that Pennsylvania Manufacturing Indemnity was not the proper insurer for J.J. Haines on the date of Mr. Jewell's injury. The insurer for J.J. Haines at the time of the accident was Royal Insurance Co. of America (hereinafter Royal).

The Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County issued an Order on March 23, 1995, which reversed the decision of the Commission "insofar as the Commission finds that J.J. Haines & Company, Inc. and Pennsylvania Manufacturers Indemnity Company are the proper Employer and insurer in this matter." The Circuit Court found that TSI and J.J. Haines were co-employers in the matter and that Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company (hereinafter Hartford) was the insurer of TSI and Royal was the insurer of J.J. Haines. The case was remanded back to the Commission.

The Commission entered an Order on April 25, 1997 that granted Mr. Jewell temporary total disability and permanent partial disability with the award to be paid equally by both employers and insurers pending a decision by the Commission on the issue of liability for payment between the respective employers and insurers. The Commission, determining that it did not have the jurisdiction to interpret the contract or agreement between TSI and J.J. Haines, issued an Order on May 15, 1998, that stated "that both employers and insurers are jointly liable in equal shares for all liability for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act in this claim." J.J. Haines and Royal filed a petition for judicial review of the Commission's decision to the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County.

Prior to the hearing on the petition for judicial review, both parties filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. J.J. Haines and Royal contended in their Motion for Summary Judgment that TSI should be liable for the primary coverage for workers' compensation benefits to Mr. Jewell. In their Motion for Summary Judgment, TSI and Hartford contended that the decision of the Commission was correct and the employers and insurers should be liable in equal shares. After a hearing was held on the dual Motions for Summary Judgment, the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, based upon its own interpretation of the agreement between J.J. Haines and TSI, granted J.J. Haines' and Royal's Motion for Summary Judgment and signed an Order. The Order stated that

the case is hereby remanded back to the Workers' Compensation Commission for passage of an Order finding that TSI and Hartford Underwriters are primarily liable for payment of any award in this case and J.J. Haines and Royal are to provide excess coverage only in the event that TSI and Hartford Underwriters become unable to meet these obligations.

TSI appealed. As we have indicated, we granted certiorari on our own motion prior to this case being heard by the Court of Special Appeals.

Discussion

We hold that the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County erred when it interpreted the agreement between J.J. Haines and TSI instead of remanding the matter to the Commission for its consideration. In a case where the Commission is determining liability between co-employers, the Commission is authorized to, and should, interpret and apply any contract or other agreement between the co-employers that affects their liability.6 The Circuit Court should have remanded the case so that the Commission could consider the possible application of any contracts between the co-employers when ruling on which employer and insured should be liable.7

A.

The Maryland Workers' Compensation Act (hereinafter Act) was enacted by 1914 Maryland Laws Chapter 800.8 This Court has had many opportunities to examine the intent of the Act. In Polomski v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 344 Md. 70, 684 A.2d 1338 (1996), we stated that:

In reality, the Act protects employees, employers, and the public alike. To be sure, the Act maintains a no-fault compensation system for employees and their families for work-related injuries where compensation for lost earning capacity is otherwise unavailable. See Bethlehem-Sparrows Point Shipyard v. Damasiewicz, 187 Md. 474, 480, 50 A.2d 799, 802 (1947); Paul v. Glidden Co., 184 Md. 114, 119, 39 A.2d 544, 546 (1944). At the same time, however, the Act also recognizes the need to protect employers from the unpredictable nature and expense of litigation, and the public from the overwhelming tax burden of "caring for the helpless human wreckage found [along] the trail of modern industry." Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company v. Goslin, 163 Md. 74, 80, 160 A. 804, 807 (1932); Brenner v. Brenner, 127 Md. 189, 192, 96 A. 287, 288 (1915). See Ch. 800 of the Acts of 1914; see also Belcher v. T. Rowe Price, ...

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    ...Labor and Employment Article. Genstar moved for summary judgment in Chaney's civil suit. Relying on Temporary Staffing, Inc. v. J.J. Haines & Co., Inc., 362 Md. 388, 765 A.2d 602 (2001), Genstar argued that the WCC was the appropriate forum to determine whether Genstar was Windsor's employe......
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