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Baltimore County v. Thiergartner

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 26, 2014

BALTIMORE COUNTY, MARYLAND, et al
v.
CARROLL THIERGARTNER

JUDGMENT OF THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE COUNTY AFFIRMED AS TO DENIAL OF APPELLANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; JUDGMENT LIKEWISE AFFIRMED AS TO THE GRANT OF APPELLEE'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; CASE REMANDED TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE COUNTY, WITH DIRECTION TO REMAND TO THE WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO RECALCULATE APPELLEE'S WORKERS' COMPENSATION AWARD IN A MANNER CONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION. COSTS ASSESSED TO BALTIMORE COUNTY.

Matricciani, Graeff, Sharer, J. Frederick, (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ. Opinion by Sharer, J.

OPINION

Page 845

[216 Md.App. 561] Sharer, J.

This appeal follows the entry of a judgment in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, after consideration of Baltimore County's request for judicial review of a decision and order of the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission (" the Commission" ).

Concurrent with its petition for judicial review, the County filed a motion for summary judgment. Appellee, Carroll Thiergartner, opposed the County's petition, and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the circuit [216 Md.App. 562] court denied the County's motion for summary judgment and granted Thiergartner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

The County presents two questions for our review which, as slightly edited, are:

1. Did the Circuit Court err, as a matter of law, in its rulings on the parties' respective motions for summary judgment?

2. Is the County entitled to a complete offset of workers' compensation benefits by operation of Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-503 due to Appellee's election and receipt of payments under the County's Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP)?[1]

For the reasons that follow, we shall affirm the circuit court's denial of the County's motion for summary judgment, and affirm the grant of appellee's motion. However, we shall remand for the purpose of recalculation of the amount by which appellee's workers' compensation benefits should be offset.

Page 846

Standard of Review

Our review of the trial court's grant, or denial, of a motion for summary judgment is whether the trial court was legally correct, since a trial court decides issues of law, not fact, when granting summary judgment. Heat & Power Corp. v. Air Prods. & Chem., Inc ., 320 Md. 584, 578 A.2d 1202 (1990). " The court shall enter judgment in favor of or against the moving party if the motion and response show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the party in whose favor judgment is entered is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Md. Rule 2-501(f). In this case, the circuit court found no disputes of material fact; indeed, the parties agree that there are no such disputes. The factual determination [216 Md.App. 563] having been made for us, " 'we review the trial court's ruling on the law, considering the same material fro the record and deciding the same legal issues as the circuit court.'" D'Aoust v. Diamond, 424 Md. 549, 575, 36 A.3d 941 (2012) (quoting Messing v. Bank of America, N.A ., 373 Md. 672, 684, 821 A.2d 22 (2003)) (further citation omitted).

FACTS and PROCEEDINGS

Appellee, Carroll Thiergartner, prior to his retirement in September 2005, was employed as a sworn Baltimore County firefighter for 33 years. During his active employment, Thiergartner participated in the County's Deferred Retirement Option Program (" DROP" ). At the time of his retirement, he opted to receive a lump-sum payment from his DROP account. In May 2010, nearly five years after he retired, Thiergartner began to develop chest pain. He sought medical attention and was diagnosed and treated as follows:

On May 19th of 2010 ... he was found to have a 99 percent occlusion of the left anterior descending artery. That was stented. And then two days later ... he was found to have a 99 percent occlusion of the right coronary artery and that was also stented. He was released from the hospital the next day.

Thereafter, on February 18, 2011, Thiergartner filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits in which he asserted that his heart condition was a compensable " occupational disease" that arose from his employment with the County. Following a hearing, the Commission issued its order, on February 14, 2012, finding that the effects of Thiergartner's coronary artery disease amounted to a 25 percent loss of the industrial use of his body. As a result, the Commission awarded Thiergartner permanent ...


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