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What Do You Think: Did Md. Exclusivity Provision Apply to Adult Daughter whose Dad Fell to His Death at work?

11 Dec, 2023 Chris Parker

question mark 2492009 640

Baltimore, MD ( -- In Maryland, spouses and dependents of employees killed or injured at work are not entitled to sue the company for negligence or wrongful death, with two narrow exceptions. This is known as the exclusivity provision.

Since children who are not dependents have no right to workers’ compensation survivor benefits, does that mean the exclusivity provision doesn’t apply to them?

A Maryland appellate court grappled with that issue in the case of a 47-year-old woman whose father fell to his death while working for Jenway contracting. The woman was not his dependent. But she sued the company for wrongful death, claiming the company’s negligence caused his death. Her injuries, according to her lawsuit, included mental anguish and loss of the guidance she would have received from her father.

A trial court dismissed the case based on the workers’ compensation act’s exclusivity provision. The woman appealed. She argued that because she was not a spouse or dependent, the provision did not apply to her.

In Maryland, workers’ compensation is the exclusive remedy of employers and their dependents when an employee is injured or killed at work. There are two exceptions:

1) The employer fails to maintain workers’ compensation coverage; or
2) The employer deliberately kills the employee.

Could the daughter bring a wrongful death suit against the company?
A. Yes. Because she was neither a spouse nor a dependent, she was not entitled to benefits: thus, the exclusivity provision did not apply to her.
B. No. She did not fall under one of the exceptions to the exclusivity rule.

If you selected B, you agreed with the court in Ledford v. Jenway Contracting, Inc., No. 1755 (Md. App. 11/30/23), which held that the exclusivity provision applies to non-dependent children of injured or killed workers.

The court pointed out that the statute contains only two exceptions to the exclusivity provision. Neither applied her, because the company maintained workers’ compensation coverage and no one was arguing that the company deliberately killed the employee. The court noted that the state’s courts have consistently held that those are the only exceptions to the rule.

“The loss of Ms. Ledford's father is undoubtedly a tragedy for her. Nonetheless, we see no compelling reason to divert from that long-standing precedent,” the court wrote.

The court also reasoned that its decision was consistent with the purpose of the act; to provide employees compensation while protecting companies from lawsuits.

The court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case.

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