Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
by
The Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion of the Court of Special Appeals that the release Bernard Collins provided in settlement of his workers' compensation claims did not bar Peggy Collins from asserting her independent claim for death benefits under the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act, Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. Title 9.Two years before he died, Bernard settled claims he had brought under the Act against Petitioners, his former employer and its insurers, for disability benefits related to his heart disease. In the parties' settlement agreement, Bernard purported to release Petitioners from any claims that he or his spouse might have under the Act relating to his disability. After Bernard died, Peggy filed her claim for benefits based on Bernard's death from heart disease. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Petitioners based on release. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because Peggy was not a party to the settlement agreement, Petitioners may not enforce the release against Peggy; and (2) Bernard's settlement of his claims under the Act did not extinguish Peggy's future claim for death benefits. View "In re Bernard L. Collins" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals agreed with the judgment of the hearing examiner granting line-of-duty (LOD) retirement benefits to Petitioner, a retired Baltimore City police officer, based on a finding of fact that Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury, holding that the hearing examiner did not err.Police officers are potentially eligible for two different levels of disability benefits - a less substantial non-line-of-duty (NLOD) level of benefits or a more substantial LOD level of benefits. Benefits for NLOD disability may be awarded on the basis of a mental or physical incapacity, but benefits for LOD disability can only be awarded based on a physical incapacity. Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a concussion in the course of his duties. The hearing examiner granted Petitioner LOD disability benefits, concluding that he was permanently physically incapacitated. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner's incapacities were mental rather than physical. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to LOD benefits. View "Couret-Rios v. Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of City of Baltimore" on Justia Law

by
In these two cases arising from two instances of police misconduct the Court of Appeals held that the police officers were acting within the scope of their employment, and therefore, the City of Baltimore was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs.The officers in these cases were members of the Baltimore City Police Department's now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force. Members of the task force engaged in a wide-ranging racketeering conspiracy, resulting in the officers being convicted in federal court. These two cases arose out of instances in which the officers conducted stops and made arrests without reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. The plaintiffs and the officers agreed to a settlement of the lawsuits. As part of the settlements, the officers assigned to the plaintiffs the right to indemnification from the City. Thereafter, the plaintiffs sought payment of the settlements by the City. In both cases, the parties entered into a stipulated settlement of undisputed material facts. The Supreme Court held (1) the stipulations in both cases established that the officers' conduct satisfied the test for conduct within the scope of employment; and (2) therefore, the City was responsible for compensating the plaintiffs for the officers' actions by paying the settlements that the plaintiffs and the officers reached. View "Baltimore City Police Department v. Potts" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal concerning whether a school board was liable for a judgment against its employee when the board was dismissed from the case prior to trial the Court of Appeals held that, under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-518, even if a board is entitled to substantive dismissal from a case the plaintiffs are required to maintain the board as a party or request that the board be brought back into the case to indemnify an employee.As a matter of trial strategy in a case against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, counsel for Plaintiffs decided to not appeal the dismissal, via summary judgment, of the Board from the case and to avoid joinder of the Board under after the conclusion of the trial. After the trial, Plaintiffs filed motions to enforce the judgments, arguing that the Board was obligated to satisfy the judgments pursuant to section 5-518. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motions. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order to force a county school board to indemnify a judgment against a county board employee, the mandatory joinder requirement under section 5-518 requires that a county board be joined as a party throughout the entire litigation. View "Neal v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law

by
In this case involving the claim of Petitioner, a veteran paramedic/firefighter regarding degenerative meniscal tears in his right knee the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Baltimore County's motion for summary judgment and concluding that Petitioner's degenerative meniscal tears could be classified as an occupational disease, holding that there was ample evidence that Petitioner's employment actually caused the degenerative tears.The trial court determined that Petitioner met the statutory requirements set forth in Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-502(d)(1) that his alleged occupational disease was "due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist...." The County appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence for the jury reasonably to conclude that Petitioner's degenerative knee tears were "due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist." View "Baltimore County v. Quinlan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission modifying an order that provided Officer Peter Gang, who was injured working as a correctional officer for Montgomery County, a compensation award for a permanent partial disability resulting from his injury, holding that the Commission was authorized to retroactively modify the compensation award.Specifically, the Commission retroactively adjusted the rate of compensation because, as a public safety employee, Officer Gang had been entitled to a higher rate of compensation than that which he initially received. The Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission was not statutorily authorized to retroactively modify Officer Gang's rate of compensation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under section 9-736(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act, the Commission may modify the compensation award within five years from the date of the last compensation payment; and (2) because Officer Gang applied for the correction before the statutory five-year period expired the Commission properly exercised its continuing jurisdiction to retroactively correct the rate of compensation in Officer Gang's award for permanent partial disability based on an error of law. View "Gang v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the determination of the Commissioner of Labor and Industry that the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company violated Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Employee. 5-104(a) by failing to “furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” holding that there was substantial evidence for the Commissioner to determine that Whiting-Turner violated section 5-104(a).Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the Commissioner correctly determined (1) Whiting-Turner’s failure to follow the shoring-tower manufacturer’s instructions to use looser braces in assembling a shoring tower supporting a concrete slab constituted a recognized hazard within the meaning of section 5-104(a); and (2) Whiting-Turner’s use of an undersized spacer beam in the upper support system of a shoring tower constituted a recognized hazard within the meaning of section 5-104(a). View "Commissioner of Labor & Industry v. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co." on Justia Law

by
In this case involving the State Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights and the interplay between Md. Code Ann. 10-910(b)(1) and 10-910(b)(6), the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals concluding that an appointing authority may not have the opportunity to hold another penalty-increase meeting after the thirty-day deadline for issuing a final order when recording equipment malfunctioned preventing the substance of the initial meeting from being captured “on the record,” holding that the proper remedy for the unforeseen technological glitch is that the parties must reconvene for another meeting to be held on the record.Section 10-910(b)(1) provides that [w]ithin 30 days after receipt of” the hearing board’s recommended penalty, “the appointing authority shall…issue a final order.” Section 10-910(b)(6) states that “the appointing authority may increase the recommended penalty” if the appointing authority “meets with the [charged] correctional officer and allows” the officer “to be heard on the record.” The Court of Appeals concluded in this case that the appointing authority’s failure to satisfy the “on the record” requirement was incurable after the thirty-day deadline. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because the technical failure could be easily cured with a remand and because the appointing authority must protect the due process rights of a charged correctional officer by adhering to all the enumerated procedures, remand was required to cure the procedural defect. View "Baltimore City Detention Center v. Foy" on Justia Law

by
At issue was whether a teacher in the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system is protected by the Maryland State Whistleblower Protection Law (WBL), Md. Code State Pers. & Pens. 5-301-314.Petitioner filed a WBL complaint against MCPS, arguing (1) teachers employed by the county school board are embraced within the WBL because the county school board is a unit of the executive branch of State government, and (2) MCPS should be estopped from asserting that it is not a State agency because it had asserted in other contexts State agency status. The court of appeals concluded (1) the WBL does not apply to public school teachers employed by county boards of education because they are not employees of the executive branch, and (2) an entity may qualify as a State agency for some purposes while being classified as a local agency for other purposes. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) the county board of education is not a State agency for purposes of the WBL, and WBL protection does not otherwise extend to public school teachers; and (2) judicial estoppel has no role in this case because the appropriate designation of a county school board as either a State or local agency depends on the context of the board’s particular authority or function. View "Donlon v. Montgomery County Public Schools" on Justia Law

by
In this dispute over constitutional limits on the governor’s power to make recess appointments, the Court of Appeals held that a provision in the state budget bill passed by the general assembly that precluded two gubernatorial appointees from being paid a salary exceeded the authority of the legislature was was invalid and unenforceable.In 2016, the governor appointed the two appointees as secretaries for two departments. The governor withdrew his nomination of the appointees during the 2017 legislation session but later reappointed the two secretaries. Anticipating that prospect, the general assembly passed a provision in the state budget bill forbidding payments to administration appointees who were nominated but not confirmed by the Maryland Senate. The cabinet secretaries filed suit demanding pay for their work. The circuit judge ruled that the governor had the authority to make the two recess appointments and ordered the treasurer to pay the cabinet secretaries. The Court of Appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment and remanded for entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that the appointees were entitled to be paid the salaries set forth in the fiscal year 2018 budget for the times they served as secretaries of their respective departments and for entry of an order enjoining the state from interfering with the payment of those salaries. View "Kopp v. Schrader" on Justia Law