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Mackin & Associates v. Harris

March 11, 1996

MACKIN & ASSOCIATES
v.
DEAN A. HARRIS



Certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals (Circuit Court for Montgomery County). James L. Ryan, JUDGE.

Argued Before Eldridge, Rodowsky, Chasanow, Karwacki, Bell, Raker, McAuliffe, John F. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcauliffe

Opinion by McAuliffe, J.

The claimant in this Workers' Compensation case, Dean A. Harris, suffered a compensable injury in 1989 while employed by Mackin & Associates. An award was passed in his favor, and he was provided with appropriate benefits by Mackin and its insurer (hereinafter, collectively, Mackin). Subsequently, Harris terminated his employment with Mackin and engaged in a business of his own. In 1993, while self-employed, Harris suffered injuries when he slipped on a patch of ice and fell. Harris requested the Workers' Compensation Commission to order Mackin to pay additional benefits connected with the subsequent accident because, he said, the fall occurred while he was on his way to the office of a physical therapist to receive treatment for the earlier compensable accident. Thus, argued Harris, the second accident was a consequence of the first and should likewise be compensable.

The Workers' Compensation Commission denied the claim. Harris appealed to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County and that court entered summary judgment in favor of Mackin. Harris appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, and that Court reversed. Harris v. Mackin, 100 Md. App. 363, 641 A.2d 938 (1994). This Court granted Mackin's petition for certiorari, and we shall reverse the judgment of the intermediate appellate court, finding that there is no legally sufficient nexus between the first accident and the subsequent accident to support an additional award of compensation.

The Maryland Workers' Compensation Act requires an employer of a covered employee to provide compensation for "an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment ... or a disease or infection that naturally results from an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment." Maryland Code (1991 Repl. Vol.), ยงยง 9-101 and 9-501 of the Labor & Employment Article. Mackin asserts that the 1993 accident could not have arisen out of Harris's employment with Mackin because at the time of that accident Harris was self-employed. Harris responds that the 1993 accident naturally resulted from the 1989 accident because, but for the 1989 accident he would not have been required to go to the therapist in 1993, and but for the requirement of that visit he would not have fallen on the ice at that time and place.

Mackin is correct that, standing alone, Harris's 1993 accident could not have arisen out of and in the course of his employment with Mackin. As Judge Harrell pointed out for the Court of Special Appeals in a case involving a similar employment situation:

The Claimant was not employed by the Employer in any capacity when he suffered his heart attack. His employment had been terminated approximately three years before .... Because he was not the Employer's employee at the time of the injury, the injury simply could not have arisen out of and in the course of his employment.

Huffman v. Koppers Co., 94 Md. App. 180, 186, 616 A.2d 451 (1992), affirmed, 330 Md. 296, 623 A.2d 1296 (1993).

In Huffman, the claimant suffered a heart attack while being deposed by his employer during the pendency of the employer's appeal of an award in favor of the claimant. The Court of Special Appeals assumed, arguendo, that the stress of appearing at the deposition contributed to the heart attack but affirmed the denial of benefits, holding there was an insufficient link between the original employment and the subsequent heart attack.

This Court has recognized that a subsequent injury caused by an earlier industrial accident may be compensable even though the subsequent injury occurred when the claimant was not pursuing the employer's business in the ordinary sense of the word. See, e.g., Great A.& P. Tea Co. v. Hill, 201 Md. 630, 95 A.2d 84 (1953) (evidence sufficient to show that non-industrial fracture of leg was caused by compensable fracture three years earlier); Unger & Mahon v. Lidston, 177 Md. 265, 9 A.2d 604 (1939) (jury question whether industrial injury to ankle was cause of fall and fracture of hip nine days later). In considering the question of causation in Lidston, the Court quoted from Bramble v. Shields, 146 Md. 494, 506, 127 A. 44, 48 (1924), as follows:

But in cases arising under the Workmen's Compensation Law the question of negligence is excluded, and with it the rule as to reasonable and probable consequence would also be excluded, if such rule were applicable here. The only test is: Did the accidental injury arise out of and in the course of employment? If it did, it makes no difference whether it was a normal or abnormal occurrence and so with 'and such disease or infection as may naturally result therefrom.' It can make no difference whether the results are usual or unusual, if there is a direct causal connection between the injury and the disease, so that the disease is directly attributable to the injury.

177 Md. at 269. And, quoting from Baber v. Knipp & Sons, 164 Md. 55, 67, 163 A. 862, 867 (1933), the Court said:

It would seem to be established in this state in workmen's compensation cases that 'proximate cause' means that the result could have been caused by the accident and that there has not intervened, between ...


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