Circuit Court for Baltimore City Case No. 24-C-005274
Berger, Arthur, Friedman, JJ.
case is before us on appeal from an order of the Circuit
Court for Baltimore City granting summary judgment in favor
of the Maryland Transit Administration ("MTA"),
appellee. We are asked to determine whether the MTA is
entitled to apply disability retirement benefits owed to
Danny Blankenship ("Claimant"), appellant, as a
credit to workers' compensation benefits also owed to
him. The Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission
("Commission") determined that the MTA was not
entitled to the statutory offset provided in Md. Code (1991,
2008 Repl. Vol.), § 9-610 of the Labor & Employment
Article ("LE"). On judicial review, the circuit
court reversed the Commission, determining that the LE §
9-610 offset does apply.
appeal to this Court, Claimant alleges that the circuit
court's ruling was erroneous and presents a single issue
for our consideration, which we have rephrased slightly as
Whether the MTA is entitled to an offset under LE §
9-610 when an employee of the MTA is awarded both disability
retirement benefits and permanent partial disability
workers' compensation benefits for the same accident.
reasons explained herein, we shall affirm the judgment of the
March 1, 2012, Claimant, a 26-year employee of the MTA,
suffered an accidental injury at work. Following the injury,
Claimant applied for MTA disability retirement. His MTA
disability retirement was approved, effective August 1, 2013.
Claimant also filed a claim with the Commission and was
awarded workers' compensation benefits for permanent
partial disability. Claimant currently receives $724.00 per
week in workers' compensation benefits. In addition,
Claimant receives $490.67 per week in disability retirement
from the MTA pension system. The extent of Claimant's
injury and the amount of Claimant's award are not at
issue in this appeal.
the Commission, the MTA and its insurer, the Injured
Workers' Insurance Fund (collectively, "MTA"),
requested that the Commission allow an offset from the
permanent partial disability benefits pursuant to LE §
9-610. The MTA asserted that the statutory offset applied
because Claimant was concurrently receiving disability
retirement benefits for the same injuries. The Commission
denied the MTA's request for an offset. The Commissioner
explained, in a written decision, that there was
"ambiguity" as to whether the MTA's pension
system was administered by the MTA itself or by the Board of
Trustees for the State Retirement and Pension System (the
"Board of Trustees"). The Commissioner determined that
it was appropriate to resolve the ambiguity in favor of
Claimant in light of the "long standing proposition that
the Workers Compensation statute should be liberally
construed in favor of injured workers in order to effectuate
its benevolent purpose."
filed a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore City. Claimant and the MTA filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. After a hearing, the circuit court reversed
the decision of the Commission and found that the statutory
offset in LE § 9-610 was applicable to Claimant's
benefits. The circuit court, after reviewing the governing
law, determined that there was no ambiguity as to the
administration of the MTA pension. The circuit court found
"that the MTA administers its own plan and . . . the MTA
plan is not part of the State Retirement Pension
System." This appeal followed.
entry of summary judgment is governed by Maryland Rule 2-501,
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).
Court of Appeals has articulated the appellate standard of
review of a trial court's grant of a motion for summary
judgment as follows:
On review of an order granting summary judgment, our analysis
"begins with the determination [of] whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists; only in the absence of such
a dispute will we review questions of law."
D'Aoust v. Diamond, 424 Md. 549, 574, 36 A.3d
941, 955 (2012) (quoting Appiah v. Hall, 416 Md.
533, 546, 7 A.3d 536, 544 (2010)); O'Connor v. Balt.
Cnty., 382 Md. 102, 110, 854 A.2d 1191, 1196 (2004). If
no genuine dispute of material fact exists, this Court
determines "whether the Circuit Court correctly entered
summary judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v.
Council of Unit Owners of the Gables on Tuckerman
Condo., 404 Md. 560, 571, 948 A.2d 11, 18 (2008)
(citations omitted). Thus, "[t]he standard of review of
a trial court's grant of a motion for summary judgment on
the law is de novo, that is, whether the trial
court's legal conclusions were legally correct."
D'Aoust, 424 Md. at 574, 36 A.3d at 955.
Koste v. Town of Oxford, 431 Md. 14, 24-25, 63 A.3d
582, 589 (2013).
appeal of a workers' compensation case, when the issue
presented is an issue of law, "we review the decision
de novo, without deference to the decisions of
either the Commission or the circuit court." Long v.
Injured Workers' Ins. Fund, 225 Md.App. 48, 57
(2015) (citing Gross v. Sessinghause & Ostergaard,
Inc., 331 Md. 37, 45-48 (1993)). Because this case
presents only issues of law, we apply the de novo
standard of review.
narrow issue before us in this appeal is whether LE §
9-610 applies to offset Claimant's
benefits. Section 9-610 provides:
(a)(1) Except for benefits subject to an offset under
§ 29-118 of the State Personnel and Pensions
Article, if a statute, charter, ordinance,
resolution, regulation, or policy, regardless of whether part
of a pension system, provides a benefit to a covered employee
of a governmental unit or a quasi-public corporation that is
subject to this title under § 9-201(2) of this title or,
in case of death, to the dependents of the covered employee,
payment of the benefit by the employer satisfies, to the
extent of the payment, the liability of the employer and the
Subsequent Injury Fund for payment of similar benefits under
(Emphasis added.) Claimant asserts that his benefits are
subject to the offset set forth in Md. Code (1993, 2015 Repl.
Vol.), § 29-118 of the State Personnel & Pensions
Article ("SPP"), and, therefore, LE § 9-610
does not apply. In ruling for Claimant, the Commissioner
adopted this position. The MTA asserts that the SPP §
29-118 offset does not apply, and, therefore, the LE §
9-610 offset does apply. The circuit court adopted this
argument in granting the MTA's motion for summary
delving into the question of whether SPP § 29-118
applies, we discuss briefly the longstanding policy of the
State of Maryland to prevent double recovery for a single
injury. Indeed, "Maryland law has long provided for the
offset of workers' compensation benefits against certain
other benefits." Zakwieia v. Baltimore Cty., Bd. of
Educ., 231 Md.App. 644, 651, cert. denied, 454
Md. 676 (2017). "[F]rom the inception of the
Workmen's Compensation law, the General Assembly was
concerned with, and attempted to prohibit, governmental
authorities being obliged to pay benefits to an employee
twice as a result of the same injury." Nooe v. City
of Baltimore, 28 Md.App. 348, 352 (1975).
State Retirement and Pension Systems of Maryland v.
Thompson, the Court of Appeals discussed the way in
which SPP § 29-118 and LE § 9-610 each operate to
prevent double recovery:
Maryland law precludes a government employee from collecting
duplicative benefits for the same work-related disability
under both the workers' compensation law and the
employer's retirement system. If the employee is covered
by SRPS [State Retirement and Pension System of Maryland],
the basic disability benefits payable by SRPS are reduced by
the amount of workers' compensation benefits received by
the employee. Maryland Code, § 29-118(b)(1) of the State
Personnel and Pensions Article (SPP) requires the Board of
Trustees of SRPS to reduce disability retirement benefits
otherwise payable to the former employee by the amount of any
related workers' compensation benefits paid or payable
after the effective date of retirement. If the employee is
covered by some other public employment plan that provides
disability benefits, it is the workers' compensation
benefits that get reduced. Section 9-601(a) of ...