Firefighter widow should have been entitled to partial death benefits

The Appellate Court of Maryland reversed a trial court ruling that caused the widow of a county firefighter to lose partial death benefits awarded after her husband’s death.  

The appeals court Wednesday determined a trial court wrongly reversed a Workers’ Compensation Commission decision awarding Janet Conrad partial death benefits after the 2017 death of her husband, Montgomery County firefighter Joseph Conrad.

Mr. Conrad was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer in 2012 and later died.

In May 2019, Ms. Conrad filed a comp claim seeking dependency benefits, and the commission found Ms. Conrad was partially dependent on her husband at the time of his death. It awarded her partial death benefits.

Ms. Conrad argued the commission erred in calculating her dependency from the time of her husband’s death rather than the time of disablement. The trial court found she was not entitled to death benefits.

The trial court, which also found that Ms. Conrad became wholly self-supporting after her husband’s death, granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and remanded the case back to the commission for a new order.

Ms. Conrad appealed the decision.

The appeals court found there was no dispute that Ms. Conrad, who wasn’t employed when her husband became ill, was entirely financially dependent on her husband.

The appeals court said the trial court erred in ruling that to award the appropriate level of death benefits, the commission must determine a widow’s dependency level at the time of death, and not the disablement date. 


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