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Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority v. District of Columbia Dep't of Employment Services

May 29, 2003

WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, PETITIONER,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, RESPONDENT, AND EUNICE WISE, CLAIMANT/INTERVENOR.



Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (Dir. Dkt. 01-01)

Before Reid and Washington, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pryor, Senior Judge.

Argued April 10, 2003

This appeal arises out of a claim for workers' compensation benefits filed by Eunice B. Wise (claimant) pursuant to the provisions of the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act of 1979, as amended, D.C. Code §§ 32-1501 through 32-1545 (2001) (formerly §§ 36-301 et seq.) (the Compensation Act). The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA or employer) appeals from an adverse final order of the Department of Employment Services (DOES or Director) declaring claimant eligible to receive workers' compensation. WMATA contends that claimant has earlier received compensation pursuant to Maryland law, and is thereby ineligible to file a claim in the District of Columbia. Being unpersuaded by this contention, we affirm.

I.

Claimant was a Red Line train operator for WMATA. To commence her work day, claimant reported to work at Shady Grove, Maryland, one of the terminal stations for the Red Line. She spent a brief period of time there checking the train. She spent the rest of her work time operating the train. On March 31, 1999, while operating a Red Line subway train, claimant hurt her left neck and shoulder while the train was stopped in the Fort Totten station in the District of Columbia. The injury eventually required her to undergo a cervical laminectomy.

Later that day, claimant informed her supervisor of her injury and told him that it happened at the Fort Totten station. WMATA filed two "Employer's First Report of Injury or Illness" (EFR) with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission (MWCC). Claimant never received copies of these EFRs, nor did employer inform her that it was filing the forms with MWCC. A claims adjuster, on behalf of WMATA, issued checks to claimant as payment of temporary total disability benefits, and claimant cashed them. Neither the forms claimant filed with employer, nor the checks employer sent to claimant indicated that a claim was being processed under Maryland law. Employer's representative did not inform claimant that the claim was deemed a Maryland claim.

Claimant filed a Notice of Accidental Injury or Occupational Disease (Form 7) and a Employee's Claim Application (Form 7A) with the District of Columbia Office of Workers' Compensation (D.C. OWC) on June 25, 1999. Both of these forms list only the Red Line as the place where the injury occurred. A hearing and appeals examiner held an evidentiary hearing on the issue of jurisdiction and issued an order finding that the injury occurred in the District of Columbia, but that claimant was barred from receiving benefits under the Act, pursuant to D.C. Code § 36-303 (a-1), because she had received benefits under Maryland law.

Claimant appealed to the Director of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services and the Director reversed the order. In his decision, the Director stated that neither WMATA nor its representative sent a copy of the EFRs to claimant or her attorney as required pursuant to COMAR § 14.09.01.04, Md. Regs. Code tit. 14 § 09.01.04 (1991); the Director also concluded that claimant never filed a claim with Maryland, as required by COMAR § 14.09.01.09, Md. Regs. Code tit. 14 § 09.01.09 (1991). The Director held that claimant's compensation claim was not barred under the Act and reversed the compensation order.

II.

A.

This case is one of a series of recent decisions addressing eligibility for workers' compensation in circumstances involving more than one state in the Metropolitan area. *fn1 Section 32-1503 (a-1), D.C. Code § 32-1503 (a-1) (2001) (formerly § 36-303 (a-1)), is one of three exceptions to the general coverage provided by the District's Compensation Act. D.C. Code §§ 32-1501 through 32-1545 (2001) (formerly §§ 36-301 et seq.). It states: "No employee shall receive compensation under this chapter and at any time receive compensation under the workers' compensation law of any other state for the same injury or death." Construction of this provision is central to the outcome of this case.

The employer, relying heavily upon our decision in Springer v. District of Columbia Dep't of Employment Servs., 743 A.2d 1213 (D.C. 1999), urges that claimant has already received benefits pursuant to Maryland's law and thus is barred from filing the present claim. This is so, it is argued, regardless of whether she had notice of an alternative path of compensation. Claimant responds that, although she received some compensation, she was unaware of the employer's action with respect to the MWCC, and points out that the only claim she has filed was with DOES. The Director, in ruling in favor of claimant, identified the issue ...


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