Case Update: Claimant's hernia not compensable as an occupational disease under Maryland Workers' Compensation Act.


Claimant filed a claim with the Commission alleging an inguinal hernia caused by repetitive lifting during his ten years of employment as a Montgomery County firefighter. After a hearing, the Commission disallowed his claim because under Maryland Law, "a hernia can only be compensable as an accidental injury or strain pursuant to §9-504. Hernia as an occupational disease is not recognized under the current statute and the Commission will disallow the claim filed herein." Claimant sought judicial review in the Circuit Court, which affirmed the Commission's decision. He then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.

The Court of Special Appeals reviewed whether a hernia may be compensable as an occupational disease. The statute, LE §9-504, specifically addresses compensable hernias. In sum, it provides that employers shall provide compensation to a claimant for hernias caused by accidental personal injury or by strain arising out of an in the course of his employment. If the hernia existed before the accidental personal injury or strain, it must be shown that the preexisting hernia has become so aggravated that an immediate surgery is needed. Claimant did not assert that his hernia was compensable under that provision, but rather as an occupational disease due to repetitive lifting. Claimant did not present authority to support his assertion that hernias are compensable as an occupational disease.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision of the Commission and the Circuit Court finding that the statute addresses the compensability requirements for a hernia separately from an occupational disease. The Court noted that LE §9-745(c)(1), refers separately to an "accidental personal injury, occupational disease, or compensable hernia" in supporting the different compensability requirements. The Court also rejected the Claimant's argument that the word "strain" could include an occupational disease. As the Court stated, "if the legislature intended to cover a hernia as an occupational disease under the Act, there would have been no reason to create a specific separate section detailing when a hernia is compensable pursuant to LE §9-504."

A copy of the Opinion can be found at: