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Maryland House of Correction v. Jenkins

Decided: March 20, 1962.

MARYLAND HOUSE OF CORRECTION ET AL.
v.
JENKINS



Appeal from the Superior Court of Baltimore City; Oppenheimer, J.

Henderson, Prescott, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Horney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.

Horney

The question presented in this workmen's compensation case is whether the widow and children of an inmate of the Maryland House of Correction -- who was accidentally killed while he was engaged as a day laborer outside of a correctional camp -- were dependent on the prisoner at the time of death and as dependents entitled to compensation for his death.

Within the time allowed by law the claimant (Sarah J. Jenkins) for herself and on behalf of her children filed a claim for death benefits with the Workmen's Compensation Commission against the House of Correction as employer and the State Accident Fund as insurer. In due course the Commission found that the claimants were not dependent on the prisoner for support at the time of his death, and disallowed the claim. But, on appeal to the Superior Court of Baltimore City, a jury found that the claimants were dependent on the decedent. And the employer and insurer appealed to this Court.

At the trial in the lower court it was agreed and stipulated that the injury causing the death of the prisoner on January 23, 1959, arose out of and in the course of his employment; that he was covered by the insurance the State Accident Fund provided; that he was lawfully married to his wife at the time of death; that as a result of the marriage there were four children ranging in age from six to ten years; and that the prisoner had been sentenced on October 25, 1957, for a term of three years in the Penitentiary, but had been transferred to the House of Correction on May 11, 1958.

Other evidence produced at the trial showed that prior to his incarceration, the prisoner had been employed by the Bethlehem Steel Company and was then contributing from $25 to $35 per week toward the support of his wife and children in

addition to making monthly mortgage payments on a home he owned and in which his dependents lived. In addition to this the prisoner had also claimed an illegitimate child born prior to his marriage as a dependent in his income tax return for the year 1957.

After the incarceration of her husband, the wife applied to the welfare department for financial assistance. This was granted and was continued until the death of her husband, when she qualified for social security benefits. There was also evidence that the wife had worked several days a week at $5 a day as a domestic, but that she stopped working after the receipt of the first welfare payment.

The evidence is conflicting as to where the prisoner lived prior to his arrest. According to the widow he was living with her and the children and came home three or four nights a week, but in applying for welfare she had stated that they had been separated for over a year. And the prison records show that the prisoner had told prison authorities that he had separated from his wife in 1955 and had been living with a paramour. However, although she did not deny the illicit relationship, the paramour insisted that the prisoner had never contributed to her support.

The prisoner, in stating his proposed plans should he be paroled, told prison authorities that he planned to live with his paramour and that, if that was not acceptable, he intended to reside with his parents. However, the prisoner wrote letters to his wife in which he stated he missed her and the children, expressed his love and concern for all of them, particularly the children, and implied that he intended to resume supporting them when he was released. And she wrote to him occasionally, but she had never visited him as had the children and his father. The last letter to his wife, in much the same tone as previous ones, was written two days before his death. But he also wrote to the paramour and she to him. And the paramour had visited him while he was at the Penitentiary.

The prisoner earned $4 a month. On two occasions he sent small sums to persons outside the prison, but he had not sent anything to his ...


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