A new reported opinion from the Appellate Court of Maryland (ACM) was issued earlier this month as it relates to occupational deafness claims. The ACM was tasked with determining whether the last injurious exposure rule applies both to insurers and employers and if it applies to hearing loss claims.
F&P Counsel Mike Bennett represented the appellee, the City of Laurel, and delivered oral arguments at the ACM. The appellant was the insurance company that provided coverage for Laurel during the majority, but not the entirety, of the claimant’s employment with them several decades ago. Despite there being no dispute that the employment with Laurel contributed to the claimant’s hearing loss, the appellant argued that they were not responsible for covering the claim since they did not insure Laurel at the time of the claimant’s last injurious exposure with them. The appellant posited that the last injurious exposure rule applies only to insurers, and not employers, in hearing loss cases.
The ACM rejected the appellant’s argument and held that the last injurious exposure rule applies equally to employers and insurers; and that the last injurious exposure rule does not apply to hearing loss claims. In reaching its conclusion, the appellate court went through the legislative history of the various statutes at play, the fact that §19-402(b)(5) of the Insurance Article explicitly states that an award against an employer is also binding against its insurer, and also rejected the public policy arguments advanced by the appellant.