Maryland Statutes of Limitation are Not Liberally Construed in Favor of the Claimant

Bonnie Miller v. Jacobs Technology, Inc.[1] , an unreported case handed down from the Court of Special Appeals earlier this year is unequivocal in its holding that the all statutes of limitation in the Workers’ Compensation Act will not be liberally construed in favor of the claimant.

In Bonnie Miller v. Jacobs Technology, Inc., the claimant sustained an accidental injury on September 29, 2011 and filed a claim with the commission in October 2011. The claim was not contested by the employer and an automatic award was issued November 28, 2011, awarding no indemnity benefits to the claimant as there was no compensable lost time. On October 12, 2016, five years and 13 days after the date of accident, the claimant filed issues for temporary total disability benefits, which the commission denied as the limitations period for modification of an award or additional compensation, codified in Maryland Labor & Employment section 9-736(b), had expired.

Accordingly, the claimant appealed the decision to the circuit court, who summarily affirmed the commission’s decision. On appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, the claimant argument that issues filed and eventually authorized for medical treatment in May 2016, constituted “compensation” within the meaning of the Workers’ Compensation Act. In parsing the claimant’s argument, the court initially interrogated what constituted “compensation.” Maryland case law, most notably,  Holy Cross Hospital of Silver Spring, Inc. v. Nichols, 290 Md. 149 (1981), held that “compensation” does not include medical benefits for the purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

In determining the triggering date for the statute of limitations, the court looked to the text of Labor & Employment section 9-736(b)(3), which states:

(3) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, the commission may not modify an award unless the modification is applied for within 5 year after the latter of:

(i) The date of the accident;

(ii) The date of disablement;

(iii) The last compensation payment.

In applying the underlying facts to the statute of limitations, the court found no compensation paid, as the claimant did not have compensable time lost until the expiration of the statute of limitations and no date of disablement as the claim was for accidental injury not occupational disease. The triggering date for the statute of limitations was the date of accident, September 29, 2011, rendering the issues filed October 12, 2016 untimely.

Unlike most provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act, statutes of limitations will not be liberally construed to effectuate the benevolent purposes of the Act. The statute of limitations is a bright line rule that will be strictly construed by the commission and all judicial bodies in the state.

[1] This is an unreported opinion that cannot be cited as precedent or persuasive authority in any document filed in any judicial body in Maryland.

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