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Maryland high court ruling on subsequent intervening events

| Oct 24, 2017 | Workers' Compensation

Here at Cohen, Snyder, Eisenberg & Katzenberg, P.A., we represent people in Workers’ Compensation claims of all types and at all stages of the application and appeals process. We do not hesitate to take cases involving complex legal issues. 

Pre-existing conditions 

One type of case in this category involves pre-existing conditions. Specifically, if work activity or a subsequent work injury aggravates or worsens an earlier injury unrelated to the present job, the claimant may still be eligible for benefits. These kinds of claims are often initially denied, but we can bring in medical experts if necessary to explain the sequence of medical events and how the current work activity has aggravated the earlier injury. 

Subsequent intervening events 

The highest court in Maryland, the Court of Appeals, analyzed a similar type of complicated claim this summer. The issue of first impression concerned the flip side of the pre-existing condition case — whether a later injury unrelated to work that happened subsequent to a compensable work injury precluded the person from collecting benefits for worsening of the compensable injury. 

In Electrical General Cor. v. Labonte, the high court answered this question: no, not necessarily. 

The claimant was an electrician who injured his back during work when he caught a falling 300-pound ladder. He received both temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits for that injury. Later, his back pain was aggravated when he was involved in a traffic stop during which an officer “grabbed him and pushed him down onto the vehicle …”    

The Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission granted his request for additional permanent partial disability benefits after the subsequent intervening event of the police stop incident. In its award, the Commission said that the disability was due to both the work-related injury and the “subsequent condition.” 

Several years later, the claimant asked to reopen the claim because his back was worse and asked for additional permanent partial disability benefits. The Commission reopened, but denied the petition, saying that the subsequent intervening event broke the “causal nexus” between the back injury from the ladder and the back condition as it existed at the time of the request to reopen. 

The case ended up at the high court, which held firmly that the subsequent injury outside of work did not preclude additional benefits for any part of the worsening condition reasonably stemming only from the original work injury. 

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