Circuit Court for Baltimore County Case No. 03-C-15-002983
Wright, Nazarian, Leahy, JJ.
Norman-Bradford suffered an accidental injury while working
for the Board of Education of Baltimore County (the
"Employer"). She filed a claim with the
Workers' Compensation Commission (the
"Commission") and was awarded workers'
compensation benefits. She also applied for
accidental disability retirement benefits from the
Maryland State Retirement and Pension System
("SRPS"), but was granted an ordinary
disability retirement instead. The Employer petitioned the
Commission to offset Ms. Norman-Bradford's ordinary
disability retirement benefits against her workers'
compensation benefits, citing the statutory offset provision
in Maryland Code (1991, 2016 Repl. Vol.), § 9-610(a)(1)
Labor and Employment Article ("LE"). The Commission
decided that the Employer was not entitled to an offset, and
the Employer petitioned for judicial review in the Circuit
Court for Baltimore County. After a hearing on cross-motions
for summary judgment, the circuit court granted the
Employer's motion and reversed the Commission's
decision after finding that the benefits Ms. Norman-Bradford
received were "similar, " which triggered the
statutory offset. Ms. Norman-Bradford appeals and we affirm.
Norman-Bradford worked as a para-educator at Deer Park
Elementary School in Baltimore County. On January 15, 2010,
she tripped on a mat and fell while taking students outside
for a fire drill. There is no dispute that as a result of the
fall, she suffered injuries to her back, right ankle, hip,
knee, and wrist.
the accident, Ms. Norman-Bradford filed a claim for
workers' compensation benefits. Her pre-accident medical
history included neck, head, and back injuries from various
accidents and diagnoses of fibromyalgia and hypertension. On
May 4, 2010, the Commission held a hearing and found that she
had sustained a compensable accidental injury, awarded her
medical treatment and compensation for temporary total
disability benefits, and concluded that her fibromyalgia
diagnosis was not caused by her accident. The Employer
appealed the Commission's decision to the circuit court
and the court reversed, finding that Ms.
Norman-Bradford's fibromyalgia was causally
related to her accidental injury as an aggravation of a
following year, Ms. Norman-Bradford applied for accidental
disability retirement benefits through the SRPS. The State
Medical Board (the "Board") determined that based
on the medical evidence she submitted, Ms. Norman-Bradford
was permanently disabled and unable to perform her job, and
recommended that the SRPS approve her claim for ordinary
disability retirement benefits. But the Board denied her
claim for accidental disability benefits after finding that
the evidence didn't prove that the January 15, 2010
accidental injury caused her permanent disability. The SRPS
adopted the Board's recommendation, denied Ms.
Norman-Bradford's accidental disability benefits request,
and awarded ordinary disability benefits.
Commission held a hearing in November 2014 to determine
whether Ms. Norman-Bradford was permanently and totally
disabled, and within that broader question to resolve
thirteen issues relating to the nature and extent of her
disability. The Commission found that she was not permanently
and totally disabled, but did find that she suffered from an
overall forty-four percent industrial loss of use of her
body-twenty-five percent from her accidental injury
(fibromyalgia, back, neck, right foot, hip, knee, and wrist,
and psychiatric); fifteen percent from her pre-existing
conditions (hypertension, psychiatric, fibromyalgia, back,
and neck); and four percent from a subsequent accident or
deterioration of a pre-existing condition (psychiatric). The
Commission ordered the Employer to pay Ms. Norman-Bradford
for permanent partial disability at the rate of $307 per week
for 125 weeks.
on that finding, the Employer requested a hearing to
determine its right to offset Ms. Norman-Bradford's
ordinary disability retirement benefits with her workers'
compensation award, pursuant to LE § 9-610(a)(1). On
March 4, 2015, the Commission concluded that the Employer was
not entitled to offset Ms. Norman-Bradford's benefits
because her "benefits are not a similar benefit."
The Employer sought judicial review of the Commission's
decision. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment
that focused on the Commission's interpretation of the
term "similar benefits" in LE § 9-610(a)(1).
After a hearing, the circuit court reversed the
Commission's decision, found that the Employer was
entitled to the statutory weekly offset under LE §
9-610, and granted the Employer's motion.
Norman-Bradford filed a timely notice of appeal. We supply
additional facts below as necessary.
Norman-Bradford argues on appeal first that the
circuit court erred in finding that LE § 9-610, not
§ 29-118 of the State Personnel and Pension Article
("SP"), governs the Employer's right to an
offset, and second that even if LE § 9-610
applies, the court erred in finding that her ordinary
disability retirement benefits and workers' compensation
benefits are "similar." The Employer contends the
circuit court correctly found that LE § 9-610 is the
applicable statute and properly determined that the Employer
is entitled to an offset because Ms. Norman-Bradford's
ordinary disability retirement benefits and workers'
compensation benefits are similar. We review a trial
court's grant of a motion for summary judgment de
novo, without deference to the legal decisions of the
Commission or circuit court. Long v. Workers' Ins.
Fund, 225 Md.App. 48, 57 (2015).
A.LE § 9-610 Is The Appropriate Offset