Tucker v. Fireman's Fund Ins. Co., 32

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Citation517 A.2d 730,308 Md. 69
Docket NumberNo. 32,32
Decision Date24 November 1986

Page 69

308 Md. 69
517 A.2d 730
No. 32 Sept. Term 1986.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Nov. 24, 1986.

Page 71

Dennis F. O'Brien (White, Mindel, Clarke & Hill on the brief), Towson, for appellant.

John J. Schneider (Clifford L. Hardwick, Hardwick, Tripoda & Harris, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellee.


MURPHY, Chief Judge.

Under Article 48A, § 539(a) of the Maryland Code (1957, 1986 Repl.Vol.), all motor vehicle liability insurance policies issued, sold, or delivered in this State after January 1, 1973 must contain personal injury protection (PIP) provisions affording minimal medical, hospital, lost income, and disability benefits to covered persons "injured in any motor vehicle accident." Among the individuals who may receive these benefits are:

"[517 A.2d 731] the named insured and members of his family residing in his household ..., [and] other persons injured while occupying the insured motor vehicle as a guest or passenger, or while using it with the express or implied permission of the named insured ..., and pedestrians injured in an accident in which the insured motor vehicle is involved or individuals injured in, on, or alighting from any other vehicle operated by animal or muscular power in an accident in which an insured vehicle is involved." (Emphasis added.)

The question presented in this case is whether an individual struck and injured by a car while sitting on a stool in a parking lot attendant's booth may be considered a "pedestrian"

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within the meaning of § 539 and thus eligible to receive PIP benefits.


The case arose from a motor vehicle accident on February 11, 1982, in a garage where appellant Lynard Tucker was employed as a parking lot attendant. On the day of the accident, Tucker was sitting on a stool inside the attendant's booth when the booth was struck by an automobile driven by Barbara Eburg and insured by appellee Fireman's Fund Insurance. The insured's policy contained the required PIP coverage which Tucker sought to recover from Fireman's Fund.

After the insurer denied his claim, Tucker sued Fireman's Fund in the District Court of Maryland. That court held that Tucker was not entitled to PIP benefits under the no-fault insurance provisions of § 539 because he was not a pedestrian when the accident occurred. On appeal, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City affirmed. We granted certiorari to review the important issue raised in the case.


Tucker argues that "pedestrian," as used in § 539, was intended by the General Assembly "to delineate between persons operating and/or occupying vehicles and those who are not." Tucker thus claims that he is within the class of persons protected under § 539. Fireman's Fund, on the other hand, argues that the legislature intended that the undefined term "pedestrian" in § 539 would be afforded the same meaning as that earlier enacted and contained in Code (1984 Repl.Vol.), § 11-145 of the Transportation Article, namely that "[p]edestrian means an individual afoot." To otherwise define the term "pedestrian" in § 539, the appellee suggests, was unnecessary. It maintains that the Transportation Article, which contains the motor vehicle laws of the State, and § 539 of the Insurance Code entitled "Motor Vehicle Casualty Insurance--Required Primary Coverage" concern the same subject matter. Thus, it is argued that the two statutes should be construed harmoniously

Page 73

so that "pedestrian" would have the same meaning in both statutes. Moreover, Fireman's Fund urges that the common meaning of "pedestrian" is the same as the § 11-145 definition and should be applied in any event. Because Tucker was not "afoot" when he was injured, the appellee contends that he was not a pedestrian within the contemplation of § 539 and therefore was not entitled to PIP benefits.


In construing the meaning of a word in a statute, the cardinal rule is to ascertain and carry out the real legislative intention. Reid v. State, 302 Md. 811, 816, 490 A.2d 1289 (1985); Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Sybert, 295 Md. 347, 361, 456 A.2d 20 (1983); Smelser v. Criterion Ins. Co., 293 Md. 384, 388-89, 444 A.2d 1024 (1982); Mauzy v. Hornbeck, 285 Md. 84, 92, 400 A.2d 1091 (1979). The primary source of legislative intent is, of course, the language of the statute itself. Auto. Trade Ass'n. v. Harold Folk Enter., 301 Md. 642, 653, 484 A.2d 612 (1984); Haskell v. Carey, 294 Md. 550, 556, 451 A.2d 658 (1982); Bledsoe v. Bledsoe, 294 Md. 183, 189, 448 A.2d 353 (1982); State v. Berry, 287 Md. 491, 495, 413 A.2d 557 (1980). When the legislature [517 A.2d 732] has not defined a term, it should ordinarily be given its usual and natural meaning. DeJarnette v. Federal Kemper Ins. Co., 299 Md. 708, 717, 475 A.2d 454 (1984); Brown v. State, 285 Md. 469, 474, 403 A.2d 788 (1979); Mauzy v. Hornbeck, supra, 285 Md. at 84, 400 A.2d 1091; Williams v. Loyola College, 257 Md. 316, 328, 263 A.2d 5 (1970). Of course, where statutory provisions are clear and unambiguous, no construction or clarification is needed or permitted, it being the rule that a plainly worded statute must be construed without forced or subtle interpretations designed to extend or limit the scope of its operation. State v. Intercontinental, Ltd., 302 Md. 132, 137, 486 A.2d 174 (1985); Hornbeck v. Somerset Co. Bd. of Educ., 295 Md. 597, 619, 458 A.2d 758 (1983).

"Pedestrian" is defined in Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1664 (1971) as "a person who travels on

Page 74

foot," specifically as "one who walks for pleasure, sport, or exercise" and "one walking as distinguished from one travelling by car or cycle." Black's Law Dictionary 1019 (5th ed. 1979) similarly defines pedestrian as "[a] person traveling on foot." As already indicated, this definition is similar to that provided in § 11-145 of the Transportation Article.

That a term may be free from ambiguity when used in one context but of doubtful application in another context is well settled. See Truck Ins. Exch. v. Marks Rentals, 288 Md. 428, 433, 418 A.2d 1187 (1980); Ebert v. Millers Fire Ins. Co., 220 Md. 602, 610, 155 A.2d 484 (1959). We are by no means persuaded that in defining the term "pedestrian" in § 11-145 of the Transportation Article, the legislature necessarily intended that same explicit definition to be utilized in applying the later enacted provisions of § 539. Section 11-145 is part of Subtitle 1 ("Definitions") of Title 11 of the Transportation Article; that title defines numerous words, providing in § 11-101 that "[i]n the Maryland Vehicle Law, the following words [e.g., 'Pedestrian'] have the meanings indicated, unless the context requires otherwise." Section 539 of the Insurance Code, setting forth statutorily mandated insurance coverages in motor vehicle liability policies, is not so related to the motor vehicle laws of the State as to compel a like construction of terms used in the two statutes.

Nor do we think that a literal application of the word "pedestrian," in the context of its usage in § 539, was necessarily intended by the legislature in view of the unjust and unreasonable consequences that would obviously flow from such an interpretation. Construed literally, the term "pedestrian" would require an individual to be traveling on foot at the time of the accident contradistinguished from one who is, for example, seated or in a standing stationary position on a...

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