Case Update: Court of Special Appeals Clarifies Which Commission Decisions Are Subject to Judicial Review


Claimant was working as a school bus driver for the County when she injured her neck and left shoulder. In 2015, the Commission awarded benefits, but denied authorization for a left shoulder surgery. Claimant did not file a petition for judicial review of the Commission's decision. She subsequently underwent left shoulder surgery, using her personal health insurance to cover the costs. In 2018, Claimant filed a request for modification of the Commission's Order, pursuant to LE §9-736, seeking payment of bills related to the surgery. The Commission denied Claimant's request for modification without holding a hearing. The Claimant then filed a petition for judicial review, which was dismissed by the Circuit Court.

In 2019, Claimant filed a second request for modification of the Commission's 2015 Order, seeking the same relief as her prior request for modification, which was denied. Claimant did not allege a worsening of condition related to the shoulder surgery. The Commission denied the Claimant's request for modification without holding a hearing. Claimant sought judicial review in the Circuit Court. The County filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Claimant had no right to judicial review of the Commission's decision not to reopen her claim. Claimant filed an opposition to the County's motion. The Circuit Court denied the County's motion to dismiss. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. The Circuit Court granted the Claimant's motion, and thereafter issued an amended Memorandum Opinion and Order to correct a clerical error. The case was remanded to the Commission with directions to consider the Claimant's request for modification. The County appealed.

Case law provides that while there is a general tendency toward liberal interpretation of the Workers' Compensation Act, LE §9-736(b), the statute of limitations, is to be strictly construed. Based on the strict construction of LE §9-736(b), the Commission has the authority to decide whether to reopen or modify a case upon a request by a claimant. Maryland Courts have consistently held that the Commission's decision to deny a request to reopen and modify a claim is not a reviewable decision. However, if the Commission considers the merits of a claimant's argument or relies on new evidence in the issuance of a new or amended order, that decision is reviewable. A mere refusal to reconsider a prior final ruling is ordinarily not appealable.

In this case, the Commission exercised its broad discretion in refusing to reopen or modify the Claimant's claim. The Commission did not hold a hearing to take any new evidence or consider the merits of the case. The issue involved was focused on payment of the bills for the surgery, an issue that was previously decided by the Commission. Therefore, the Commission's 2019 Order, in which the Commission refused to reopen the Claimant's claim is a decision by the Commission which is not subject to judicial review.

A copy of the Opinion can be found at: