A recent case out of the Court of Special Appeals confirmed that the Commission may not retroactively adjust an award of compensation that had already been paid out in full. Mr. Gang, a public safety officer, received an award of permanent partial disability in 2012 which was erroneously awarded at a lower rate than allowed for this class of employees. In 2016, Mr. Gang filed to correct that award to reflect the higher rate he was entitled to under the statute, using a Request for Document Correction, without consent from the employer and insurer. The Commission issued the revised award after which the employer filed a Request for Rehearing as they did not consent to the Document Correction. That request was initially denied by the Commission even though the claimant withdrew his request. The Employer again sought a Request for Rehearing on the basis the Claimant withdrew their Request. A hearing was granted and the Commission allowed the increase under their “continuing jurisdiction” of Labor & Employment 9-736, the statute which also allows for reopening for worsening of condition.
The employer and insurer appealed the matter to Circuit Court where argument focused on the interpretation of the Commission’s revisory powers under L&E 9-736 to “readjust for future application the rate of compensation.” The Circuit Court affirmed the decision of the Commission. The employer and insurer appealed that decision to the Court of Special Appeals (COSA). COSA interpreted Labor & Employment §9-736 much less broadly than either the Commission or the Circuit Court and found the statute limits the Commission’s revisory power to the future application of benefits and not a retroactive increase.
The Court of Special Appeals clarified that the request to correct the rate should have come contemporaneously with the award and appeal periods, not four years later. The court also reviewed the effects of such late revision of the award and the fact it would extend the statute of limitations on indemnity benefits. The court held “the Commission’s actions impermissibly extended the five-year time limit, and thus, exceeded its statutory authority.”
This decision makes clear that even if there is an error in an award, if you do not correct it reasonably promptly, you cannot come back later to do so and neither can the Commission. The Commission’s revisory powers are limited and not all encompassing. Additionally, corrections to an award dealing with a retroactive issue need to be raised, in a timely manner, as the Commission cannot correct what is no longer within its power to correct. This decision is also a reminder that Document Corrections are only valid if the change is agreed upon by all parties.
For more information about this article, please contact April Kerns at (410) 230-2975 or email@example.com.