Williams Const. Co. v. Bohlen

Decision Date16 January 1948
Docket Number68.
Citation56 A.2d 694,189 Md. 576
PartiesWILLIAMS CONST. CO. et al. v. BOHLEN.
CourtMaryland Court of Appeals

Appeal from Circuit Court, Baltimore County; J. Howard Murray Judge.

Proceeding under the Workmen's Compensation Act by J. Edward Bohlen claimant, opposed by Williams Construction Company, employer and United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, insurer. From judgment reversing decision of State Industrial Accident Commission denying compensation, the employer and insurer appeal.


James A. Biddison, Jr., of Baltimore (Bartlett, Poe & Claggett, of Baltimore, and C. Walter Cole, of Towson, on the brief), for appellants.

Charles C. Lyons, of Towson, for appellee.



In this workmen's compensation case the decisive issue is whether J. Edward Bohlen, claimant, was an employee of Williams Construction Company, contractor, at the time he sustained an accidental injury.

Claimant a laborer and truck driver, had been employed by the construction company since 1940. In June, 1945, the company was engaged by Glenn L. Martin Company to tear down a large building at its manufacturing plant and to remove the debris. Claimant was assigned by his company to work on the project, and he started to work there early in July. The accident occurred on September 21, 1945, when several laborers were about to load empty drums on his truck. An explosion, which resulted when a lighted match was thrown on some inflammable liquid from one of the drums, set his clothes afire and burned him severely. On November 23, 1946, the State Industrial Accident Commission disallowed his claim on the ground that he was not an employee of the company at the time of the accident. He appealed from that decision to the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The main defense of the company and its insurer, United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company, was that claimant was an independent contractor. The trial Court refused to rule as a matter of law that claimant was not an employee of the company, and the jury returned a verdict that he was its employee. From the judgment on the verdict reversing the decision of the Commission, employer and insurer appealed to this Court.

It is well established that, on an appeal from a decision of the State Industrial Accident Commission, where the terms and manner of employment are undisputed, the Court should determine as a matter of law whether the injured workman was an employee or an independent contractor; but where the terms and manner of employment are disputed, and different inferences may be drawn therefrom, the issue as to the relation that existed between the parties is a mixed question of law and fact to be determined by the jury under instructions from the Court. Bogatsky v. Swerdlin, 152 Md. 18, 135 A. 416; Barnes v. Thomas A. Myers & Co., 163 Md. 206, 161 A. 279; Board of Education of Harford County v. Reynolds, 171 Md. 454, 459, 189 A. 246. It was urged here that the evidence in the trial Court was substantially the same as the evidence before the Commission, and that claimant failed to meet the burden cast upon him by law to prove that the decision of the Commission was incorrect. The Maryland Workmen's Compensation Act provides that in all Court proceedings under or pursuant to this Act, the decision of the Commission shall be prima facie correct and the burden of proof shall be upon the party attacking the same. Code 1939, art. 101, sec. 70, now § 17, as recodified by Laws of 1945, ch. 528. We hold, however, that where the Commission has considered conflicting evidence of essential facts, and has drawn one of two different permissible inferences, there may be imposed upon the party attacking the decision of the Commission merely a burden of persuasion, and not necessarily a burden of additional proof. He may rely upon identically the same evidence that was presented before the Commission. The provision of the Act placing the burden of proof upon the appellant means only that he must prove in the trial Court what he asserts. His burden is to convince the Court or the jury that the Commission decided incorrectly in interpreting the facts, or deducing the inference from the facts, or construing the law applicable to the facts. Schemmel v. T. B. Gatch & Sons Contracting & Bldg. Co., 164 Md. 671, 166 A. 39; Moore v. Clarke, 171 Md. 39, 45, 187 A. 887, 107 A.L.R. 924.

The general definition of 'employee' is a person who is engaged in an extra-hazardous employment in the service of an employer, carrying on or conducting the same upon the premises or at a plant, or in the course of his employment away from the plant of his employer. Code Supp.1943, art 101, sec. 80. 'Independent contractor' may be defined as one who contracts to perform a certain work for another according to his own means and methods, free from control of his employer in all details connected with the performance of the work except as to its product or result. Hygeia Ice & Coal Co. v. Schaeffer, 152 Md. 231, 237, 136 A. 548; Board of Supervisors of Elections v. Balser, 172 Md. 187, 190 A. 822. Hence, a truck owner, who agrees to haul material for another, but who retains the right of control over the means and methods of doing the work and is responsible to the other only for the ultimate result, is not 'in the service of an employer,' but is an independent contractor. Strong's Case, 277 Mass. 243, 178 N.E. 637; ...

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5 cases
  • Board of Education v. Spradlin
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • January 31, 2005
    ...the de novo fact finder to reach a completely opposite conclusion even on identically the same record. In Williams Construction Co. v. Bohlen, 189 Md. 576, 580, 56 A.2d 694 (1948), Judge Delaplaine dealt squarely with this It was urged here that the evidence in the trial court was substanti......
  • Mut. Benefit Ins. Co. v. R. Gates Constr. Co., Civil Action No. RDB-20-0069
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • November 30, 2020
    ...Serv., Inc. , 190 Md.App. 438, 988 A.2d 1120, 1132 (2010) (quoting L.M.T. Steel , 425 A.2d at 245 ; see also Williams Const. Co. v. Bohlen , 189 Md. 576, 56 A.2d 694 (1948) ). Thus, to have an employment relationship under Maryland law, "the ‘employer’ must have some ability, should he care......
  • L. M. T. Steel Products, Inc. v. Peirson
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 6, 1981
    ...to its product or result" the worker is deemed to be an independent contractor and not an employee/servant. Williams Construction Co. v. Bohlen, 189 Md. 576, 580, 56 A.2d 694 (1948); Gale v. Greater Washington Softball Umpires Assoc., 19 Md.App. 481, 311 A.2d 817 A master-servant relationsh......
  • Injured Workers' Insurance Fund v. Orient Express Delivery Service, Inc., No. 2283, September Term, 2008 (Md. App. 2/3/2010)
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 3, 2010
    ...of the work except as to its product or result.'" L.M.T. Steel Prods., supra, 47 Md. App. at 636 (quoting Williams Constr. Co. v. Bohlen, 189 Md. 576, 580 (1948)) (additional citation omitted). On the other hand, even if the employer has only "some ability, should he care to exercise it, to......
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