On July 28, 2021, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, in Spevak v. Montgomery County, ruled, for the first time, that the offset provided for in Maryland statute LE § 9-610(a)(1) applies when an employee receives service-connected total disability retirement benefits based on one injury and is then awarded workers compensation benefits that are based on a second and separate injury.
In this case, a county employee who suffered a back injury retired and was granted service-connected total disability retirement benefits. A few years later, the employee’s hearing deteriorated, so he filed a workers compensation claim based on occupational hearing loss. The Workers Compensation Commission awarded him permanent partial disability benefits for occupational hearing loss but found that those benefits were offset by LE § 9-610(a)(1) because the service-connected total disability retirement benefits exceeded the workers compensation award.
Maryland statute LE § 9-610(a)(1) generally provides that “if a statute … provides a benefit to a covered employee of a governmental unit or a quasi-public corporation … 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 this title.”
On appeal, the Court of Special Appeals affirmed the commission’s decision and concluded that the employee’s service-connected total disability retirement benefits were “similar” to any workers compensation award for permanent total or partial disability. The court reasoned that both sets of benefits are comparable because they are based on the employee’s service-connected permanent total disability for the same employment. The court also found that when an employee receives service-connected total disability retirement and a workers compensation permanent total disability award, the benefits paid are the same whether the total disability is traceable to one work-related injury or multiple work-related injuries. Thus, the court concluded, because permanent total disability awards are subject to the offset, the employee’s permanent partial disability award is, with more reason, subject to the offset as well.
This decision could be appealed. NCCI will monitor for further developments.
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