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Case Update - Dual Benefits to Spouse of Deceased Firefighter Not Allowed Due to Timing of Amendment of Statute

Johnson v. Mayor of Balt., 203 Md. App. 673 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2012) [03/29/2012]

This case involved the question of whether the spouse of a deceased, retired firefighter, who passed away as a result of his compensable occupational disease, is entitled to receive both service pension benefits and workers' compensation benefits, so long as the total does not exceed the firefighter's weekly salary. The Commission awarded the spouse benefits and later amended its Order to note that the spouse was "wholly dependent" and that the Employer and Insurer were entitled to a set off pursuant to §9-503, which had the effect of enhancing Claimant's total recovery and avoid the dollar for dollar offset at §9-610. The Employer appealed. The big question on appeal is whether §9-503 as it stands currently (allowing for dual recovery) applies or whether pre-amendment §9-503 applies retroactively, as that was in effect at the time of the employee's death. When determining whether a statute is applied retroactively, it must first be determined whether the Legislature meant for the statute to have a retroactive effect. If this is answered positively, the next step is to determine whether retroactive application would contravene some Constitutional right or prohibition. The Court concluded that the amendment to §9-503 was not meant to be applied retrospectively. Therefore, the spouse was not entitled to dual benefits.

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