Uninsured Employers v. Danner

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Uninsured Employers Fund v. Gerald E. Dann er, No. 11 0, Sept. T erm 20 04. Opinion by Harrell, J. WORKERS COMPENSATION ACT - UNINSURED EMPLOYERS FUND - OBLIGATION TO PAY - PENALTIES - ATTORNEY S FEE The Uninsure d Emplo yer s Fund ( th e Fund ) exists as a source of last resort in Maryland to provide workers' compensation benefits to a claimant (and protect that claimant) from an uninsured employer who refuses to pay a workers' compensation award. The Workers Compensation Act contains both revenue generating provisions to provide money to pay claimants benefits and subrogation rights to the Fund to recover money from claima nts, employers and other third parties. found to be liable fo r payments p reviously made by the Fund Under § 9-1002 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Code, the Fund shall pay a properly presented dem and by a claimant for the payment of an award. An appeal or request for review of the status of an alleged statutory employer does not relieve the Fund of an otherwise proper obligation to pay or appeal the original award of temporary tota l disability benefits to the claimant. The Fund s erroneous refusal in this case to pay the claimant s benefits, however, may not be sanctioned by the Com mission w ith a penalty unde r § 9-728 o f the Lab or and Em ployment A rticle because the Fund does not meet the statutory definition of a party who may be sanctioned. The Commission s determination that the Fund lacked a reasonable ground for its conduct and consequently should pay the claimant an attorney s fee of $500 fo r having to pursue the F und s failure to pay was no t legal error. Circuit Co urt for Baltim ore Cou nty Case # C-02-13784 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 110 September Term, 2004 UNINSURED EMPLOYERS FUND v. GERALD E. DANNER Bell, C.J. Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. Opinion by Harrell, J. Filed: September 7, 2005 Gerald E. Danner was injured in Baltimore City while performing carpentry services at the behest of his employer, Timothy Stivers ( Stivers ). Danner lost the use of his left hand and was unable to work. He filed for workers compensation benefits with the Workers Co mpensation Co mmission ( Co mmission ). On 14 June 2002 the Commission ordered Stivers to pay workers compensation benefits to Dan ner. Stiv ers, who did not carry workers compensation insurance, did not make the advanced payments. Accordingly, Danner requested payment from the Uninsured Employers Fund ( the Fun d ), initially in a letter dated 17 July 2002 and thereafter in letters dated 23 Au gust 20 02 and 25 Sep tembe r 2002 . The Fund refused to pay Danner. Danner petitioned the Com mission fo r relief and it ordered the Fund to pay, in addition to the earlier ordered benefits, a 40% penalty on all monies due Danner and a $500 attorney's fee. The Fund sought judicial review in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. The Circuit Court granted Dann er s motion for sum mary judgment and denied the Fund's crossmotion fo r summa ry judgment. The Fund appealed to the Court of Special A ppeals. Th e intermed iate appellate co urt, although holding that the Fund had an obligation to pay compensation to Danner pursuant to the Commission s 14 June 2002 order, reversed on the penalty and attorney s fee awards because it believed the Maryland Workers' Compensation Act did not permit the imposition of suc h sanct ions ag ainst the Fund . The Fund petitioned this Court to issue a writ of certiorari to consider the order to pay compensation to Danner. Danner petitioned us regardin g the interm ediate appellate cou rt's reversal of the award of the penalty and attorney's fee. We granted both petitions, 384 Md. 448, 863 A.2d 997 (2004), to consider the following questions, which we r ewo rd fo r clar ity: I. Whether the Commission erred by ordering the UEF to pay workers compensation benefits when the Fund had no duty to pay the award while the issue of the possible statutory employer was awaiting resolution b y the Comm ission and th e ultimate rejection of that issue was before the Circuit Court in the judicial review action;[1] II. Whether the Court of Special Appeals erred by reversing the judgment imposing penalties and attorney's fee for failure to pay workers compen sation bene fits to Dann er upon d efault in payment by an uninsured employer under the 14 June 2002 award? We shall affirm the judgment of the Court of Special A ppeals re gard ing the Fund's obligation to pay work ers comp ensation be nefits and th e penalty to Danner, but shall reverse with regard to the attorney's fee award. I. On 16 February 2001, Danner was working as a carpenter on the 2nd floor of the Wentw orth Building on 300 Cathedral Street in Baltimore. His employer was Timothy Stivers, who had no workers compensation insurance at the time. On e of Danner s responsibilities while performing wood and trim work was to operate a band saw. He lacerated his left arm when his sweatshirt sleeve became ensnared in the saw blade, pulling his left a rm into t he blad e. As a r esult, D anner lo st substa ntial use of that a rm and hand. 1 The Fund does not question the legitimacy of the award or the amount of benefits, but rather maintains that it had no obligation to pay those benefits as ordered. 2 Danner filed with the Commission a timely claim for workers compensation benefits. On 6 June 2002,2 a Commission hearing on Danner s claim was attended by Danner and the Fund.3 In a 14 June 2002 ord er, the Commission awarded com pensation benefits to D anner, deciding, among other things, the following: 1. Danner sustained an accidental personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment on 16 February 2001; 2. Danner s disability resulted from that accidental personal injury; 3. Danner be paid temporary total disability at the rate of $400.00, payable weekly beginning 16 February 2001 and continuing as long as the claimant remains tempora rily totally disabled; 4. the correct name of the employer to be Timothy Stivers; 5. Timothy Stivers was uninsured at the time of the accidental injury. . . . The Commission, at the request of the Fund,4 deferred a decision on an issue raised by the Fund as to whether an entity identified as NWJ was Danner s statutory employer pursuant to § 9-508 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Code. (1991, 1999 Repl. 2 The Fund, from its brief, apparently believes that the hearing occurred on 11 June 2002. The Commission's order and Danner's brief, however, agree that the hearing occurred on 6 June 2002. 3 The Fund was a party to the proceedings from the inception. 4 The record does n ot conta in the tra nscript o f the 6 J une 20 02 hea ring. Danner stated in his brief and at oral argument before us that the Fund requested the Com mission to reserve judgm ent on th e pertine nt issue. 3 Vol.). 5 Neither the Fund nor Stivers sought immediate judicial review of the Commission s 14 June 2002 Award of Compensation.6 Danner promptly sent Stivers a copy of the award and dem anded pa yment. Nonetheless, Stivers did not pay the award. On 17 July 2002, Danner notified the Fund of Stivers s non-payment and requested payment from the Fund. The Fund refused. On 13 September 2002 the Commission decided that NWJ w as not Danner s statutory employer. On the same day, the Fund filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County for judicial review regarding the Commission s decision as to NWJ's status.7 The Fund did not seek in that action review o f the 14 June 200 2 award of b enefits to Danner. Contemporaneous with the filing of the Fund s initial judicial review petition, Danner filed a complaint with the Commission that the order to pay him workers compensation 5 Consistent with § 9-1201 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Code, we will refer to Title 9 of the 1999 Replacement Volume of the 1991 Labor and Employment Article as the Workers' Compensation Act. All citations to the Article in this opinion, unless otherwise stated, will be to the 1999 Replacement Volume, the relevant, and current, versio n at the time o f the Fun d s appea l. 6 Section 9-737 authorizes app eals to the Circuit Court from orders of the Commission through a petition for ju dicial review . This prov ision states, in rele vant part: An employer, covered employee, dependent of a covered employee, or any other interested person aggrieved by a decision of the Commission, including the Subsequent Injury Fund and the Uninsured Employers Fund, may appeal from the decision of the Commission provided the appeal is filed with in 30 days after the date of the ma iling of t he Co mmiss ion s or der . . . . 7 The parties resolved th is nascent d ispute by a 9 July 2004 stipulation that NWJ was the statutory employer, which stipulation was approved by the Commission on 22 July 2004. Thus, the Fund s initial action in the Circuit Court was not pursued. 4 benefits remained unfulfilled. O n 26 No vember 2 002 the C ommissio n held a he aring to determine whether Danne r was entitled to sanctions against the F und for its f ailure to pay the compensation benefits as ordered. On 11 December 2002, the Com mission found as follows, in pertinent p art: The Commission finds on the issue presented that the answ er is YES ; and finds that the Fund shall pay unto Frederick W. Miller, Esquire, counsel for [Danner], a counsel fee in the amount of $500.00; and shall pay unto the claimant a 40% penalty on all moneys due the claimant beginning February 16, 2001 and ending November 12, 2001. The Fund sought judicial review on the record in the Circuit Court of the sanctions order. Af ter oral argum ent, the court granted Danner s motion for summary judgment and denied the Fund s cross-motion for summary judgment. The Circuit Court directed the Fund to pay Danner the benefits that he was awarded on 14 June 2002 and left undisturbed the Com mission 's order f or paym ent of th e pena lty and atto rney's fee. On 14 August 2003, the Fund appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. It alleged first that work ers comp ensation be nefits were not owed by the Fund to Danner because the Fund s legal obligation to pay under the Workers' Compensation Act had not been triggered. Second, the Fund alleged that it could not be ordered, as a matter of law, to pay a penalty or an attorney's fee. As to the first contention, the intermediate appellate court answered that the pendency following the Commission s14 June order of the question of whether NWJ was Dan ner's statutory employer did not operate to defer the Fund s legal obligation to pay the unappealed 14 June 2002 compensation award following Stivers s failure to pay. Uninsured Employers Fund v. Danner, 158 Md. App. 502, 5 14, 857 A.2d 615, 622 (2004). To the 5 second point, the Court of Sp ecial Appeals foun d that the penalty and attorney s fee were not authorized by law to be imp osed ag ainst the Fund . Id. at 515, 518, 857 A.2d at 623, 624-25. II. The issues framed by the parties in this case are solely legal ones. We must decide: (a) whether the Fund's obligation to pay a claimant when the employer is in defau lt is suspended by operation of § 9-1002; (b) whether, as a matter of law, a penalty may be assessed against the Fund; and, (c) whether, as a matter of law, an attorney s fee may be assessed against the F und. Bec ause this cas e was de cided in the Circuit Court by the grant of summary judgment where cross-motions were filed, our appellate review begins with the question of whether the C ircuit Court, in r eviewing the Com mission s d ecision, prop erly determined that there was no genu ine dispute a s to a materia l fact. Richa rd P. Gilbe rt & Robert L. Humphreys, Jr., Maryland Workers Compensation Handbook § 17.7 at 348 (2d ed. 1993). We then review the resultant questions of law de novo. Md. Rule 2-501 (a); Johnson v. Mayo r of Balt. City , 387 Md. 1, 5-6, 874 A.2d 439, 442 (2005) (holding that the standard of review in a workers' compensation claim disposed of at summary judgment by the Circuit Court is de novo). A. In interpreting a statute, the ove rarching ob jective is to asce rtain the legislativ e intent. Shah v. Howa rd Coun ty, 337 Md. 248 , 254, 653 A.2d 4 25, 427 (1995). The primary source from which to determine legislative intent is the plain meaning of the statutory language. Pelican Nat. B ank v. Provident Bank of Maryland, 381 Md. 327, 336, 849 A.2d 475, 480 6 (2004). When the plain meaning is clear and unambiguous, and consistent with both the broad purposes of the legislation and the specific purpose of the provision being interpreted, our inquiry ordinarily is at an end. Lewis v. Sta te, 348 Md. 648, 653, 705 A.2d 1128, 1131 (1998). If, after considering the plain lang uage in its ordinary and common sense meaning, two or more equally plausible interpretations arise, however, then the general purpose, legislative history, and language of the ac t as a whole is exam ined in an effort to clarify the amb iguity. Haupt v . State, 340 Md. 462, 471, 667 A.2d 179, 183 (1995). We will "neither add nor delete w ords in orde r to give the sta tute a mean ing. . . ." Harris v. Bd. of Educ. of Howard County , 375 Md. 21, 31, 825 A.2 d 365, 37 1 (2003) (c itations omitted ). Because this case involves the Workers Compensation Act, we also endeavor to interpret its provisions liberally, where possible, in order to effectuate the broad remedial purpose of the statutory scheme. § 9-102; Bowen v. Smith, 342 Md. 449, 454, 677 A.2d 81, 84 (1996) (citing Para v. Richard s Group of Wash. L td. P ship, 339 Md. 241 , 251, 661 A.2d 7 37, 742 (1995)). B. The Fund generally exists as a source of last resort in Maryland to provide workers' compensation benefits to a claimant and protect that claimant from an uninsured employer who refu ses to pay a work ers' com pensat ion aw ard. Gil bert & Hum phreys, Jr., supra, at § 2.2-4 at 24; Work men s Com p. Com m n v. P roperty & Casu alty Ins. G uar. Corp., 319 Md. 1, 3, 570 A .2d 323, 32 4 (1990); Uninsured Employers Fund v. Hoy, 23 Md. App. 1, 5, 325 A.2d 446, 448-49 (1974); Uninsured Employers Fund v. Lutter, 342 Md. 334, 361, 676 A.2d 51, 64 (1996) (Karwacki, J., dissenting); 1967 Md. Laws, Chap. 152, §86 (stating the purpose 7 of the Uninsured Employer's Fund).8 The Fund primarily receives its funds from assessme nts collected under the Wo rkers' Compensation Act. It also receives interest and investment income derived from those funds. § 10-314.9 The Ge neral Asse mbly intende d generally to maintain a balance within the Fund of between $3,000,000 and $5,000,000 by directing the Director of the Fund to susp end collection of assessm ents against employers and insu rers when the Fund's balance equals $5,000,00 0 and com mence c ollection of th e assessm ents when the balance is les s than, or app roaches w ithin a three month projection, $3,000,000.00. § 9-1011 (a) & (b ).10 When the C ommission grants an award against an u ninsured employer, it assesses a p enalty against tha t employer to be paid to the Fund.11 § 9-10 05. The Fund also is subrogated to the rights of c laimants an d uninsure d employers in order to as sist it in recouping moneys disb ursed by the F und to claim ants whe re a third party ultim ately is determ ined to b e liable f or those paymen ts. §§ 9-1 003 - 9 -1004 . The Fu nd s obliga tion to pay workers arises not from an award of compensation by the Commission, bu t from § 9-1002 of the Labor and Employment A rticle. There are procedural steps within that statute nec essary to be accomplished in order to trigger the Fund s obligation to pay. The statute states, in pertinent part, as follows: 8 Former Chief Judge Gilbert of the Court of Special App eals and Rob ert H ump hreys characterized the Fund as "the most 'slipp ery fish'" in the W orkers' Com pensation A ct. Gilber t & Hu mphre ys, supra, § 2.2-3 at 24. 9 The Fund also may receive money by gift or reimbursement from the federal government as reimbursement for payments from the Fund. § 10-214. 10 Prior to a 1999 amendment, those thresholds were established at $2,500,00 and $1,000,000, respectively. 1999 Md. Laws Ch. 316. 11 The Fund has other sources of revenu e related to aw ards from the Com mission to claimants and their dependents. §§ 9-1007, 9-1008. 8 §9-1002 Payment from the Uninsured Employer s Fund. (a) In general. An aw ard is payable o ut of the Fu nd in accordance with this section. (b) Default. Unless an application for review h as been tim ely filed under subsection (g) of this section or a notice of appeal timely served,[12] an em ploye r is in defa ult on a cl aim b y a covered employee o r the depen dents of a c overed em ployee if the employer fails to: * * * * (3) pay compensation in accordance with an award within 30 days after the date of the award. * * * * (d) Payment; notice of objection. (1) On receipt of a notice of default, an employer promptly shall pay the award. (2) To object to an award, the employer, with in 30 days after receipt of the notice of default, shall notify the Commission of the reaso ns why the e mployer obje cts to the award. (3) The notice of objection by the employer to the Commission serves as an application for review under subsection (g) of this section. (e) Application for payment from Fund. If the employer does not pay the awa rd and do es not notify the Comm ission of its objection to the award in accordance with subsection (d) of this section, the covered employee or the dependents of the covered employee may apply to the Director for payment from the Fund. (f) Payme nt or applica tion for revie w. On receipt of an application f or pa ymen t, the Fun d ma y: (1) pay the award; or (2) apply for review under subsection (g) of this section. (g) Proce dure; r eview. (1) The provisions of Subtitle 7 of this title about procedure and the right to appeal apply to: (i) a covered employee or the dependents of a covered employee who file a claim; (ii) the uninsured employer; and 12 Generally, taking an appeal does not stay an order for compensation. § 9-741. 9 (iii) the Fund. (2) The right of review of the Fund includes: (i) raising issues; (ii) discovery; and (iii) a hearing before the Commission. The Fund contends that § 9-1002(b), read with § 9-1002(g), operated to stay the Fund s obligation to pay compe nsation to D anner pu rsuant to the 14 June 2002 order because an application for review and a subsequent appeal were timely served by the Fund regarding the reserved issue of w hether NWJ was t he statutory employer of Danner. Under those circumstances, the Fund argues, the employer cannot be in defau lt," within the meaning of § 9-1002 (b), for two reasons. First, had NWJ been adjudicated to be a statutory emplo yer, that decision would have placed NWJ in the shoes of D anner s actual employer, Stivers. Because a demand for payment of benefits was not made to NWJ, the thirty day time period for default by the employer could not have run.13 On a sec ond, mor e procedu ral tack, the mere fact that the Commission had not adjudicated NWJ's status (and the Fund ultimately appealed the adverse determination) precluded the Fund s obligation from arising. Danner counters that Stivers was in default because he refused to make payment within thirty days following receipt of notice of the 14 June 20 02 award of temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, a final order. That award was not contested on appeal, rendering § 9-1002 (g) inapplicable here. 13 Under § 9-508, if N WJ we re found to be a statutory em ployer it would be liable to the employee for any compensation award. 10 Section 9-1002(b) states there is no default by an em ployer if there is a timely application for review to the Commission or a notice of timely appeal served.14 This provision does not operate regarding Danner's TTD award, however, in the manner the Fund contends. Although including the descriptive term tempora ry, a temporar y total disability benefits award describes the quantity of time the claimant is deemed totally disabled and entitled to receive benef its, not w hether th e awa rd is an in terlocut ory order . Great Am. Ins. Co. v. Havenner, 33 Md. App. 326, 331, 364 A.2d 95, 98 (1976); §§ 9-61 8 - 622. The aw ard of TTD benefits w as a final, app ealable ord er because it finally adjudicated Danner's legal right to TTD benef its. Id. at 332, 364 A.2d at 99; see Montgomery Cou nty v. Ward, 331 Md. 521, 528-29, 629 A.2d 619, 623 (1993) (holding that action of administrative agency is final if "it determines or concludes the rights of the parties. . .".) (quoting Md. C omm 'n on Human Rel. v. Balt. Gas & Elec Co., 296 Md. 46, 56, 459 A.2d 205, 211 (1983)); see Paolino v. McCormick & Co., 314 Md. 575, 583, 552 A.2d 868, 871-72 (1989) (holding order denying TTD benefits finally adjudicated claimant's potential legal rights was final and appealable). Neithe r Stivers nor the Fund appea led this a ward. The Fund argues that it could not have appealed the 14 June 2002 order because it was not ordered thereby to pay compensation. The Fund, however, may appeal an order by the Comm ission if it is aggrieved by that order. The Fund is aggrieved when the claimant satisfies its obligation of application to the Fund under § 9-1002 (e) and makes demand for payment. That occ urred in this case when D anner's counsel sent the Fu nd a letter, dated 17 14 Stivers, Da nner's emp loyer, did not pa y within the thirty day time period prescribed in § 9-1002. 11 July 2002.15 Neither Stivers nor the Fund timely raised any issue concerning the legitimacy or amount of that award. The Fund claims, however, that the deferred administrative adjudication of the issue of whether NWJ w as Danner's statuto ry employer fore closed the o ccurrence of a defa ult under § 9-1002(b) because it believes that NWJ, as an alleged statutory emplo yer, also should be considered an employer within the meaning of § 9-1002 (b). In Para v. Richards Group of Wash. Ltd . P'Ship, 339 M d. 241, 2 52, 661 A.2d 7 37, 743 (1995), we explained that the statutory employer provision of the W orkers' Compensa tion Act is for: 15 The Fund, at oral argumen t, argued, for the first time ac cording to our review of the record, that the notice requirements to the u ninsured employer und er § 9-1002 (c) & (d) were not completed as a nec essary prerequisite to a proper application to the Fund fo r payment. The Fund's argumen t properly presented to us is that the delay in resolution by the Commission of N WJ's statu s pre clud ed th e exi stence of a fin al order a nd th at the Fun d's continuing appeal of the decision further precluded its obligation to pay bene fits. Moreover, the Fund stated befo re the Commission during the 26 November 2002 hearing that Danner had com plied with a ll the required rules for the p ayment: [Commission]: And all the other rules were complied with, payments w ere reques ted and pa yment denie d, is that correc t? [Th e Fund]: Yes , the F und is no t going to pay. We do not ad dres s the notice de ficie ncy argument that was neither part of the F und s Petition, nor briefed. Md . Rule 8-131 (b); M d. Rule 8-504 (a) (5). In addition, we note that it appears that the intent of the notice requirement is not to notify the Fund of a pending application for benefits, but to notify the uninsured employer that its business license may be suspen ded and th e Fund s r ight to subrogation. It also serves as a second notice that the uninsured employer s payment is overdue (assuming the claimant's claim for benefits is the first instance of notice) and triggers the uninsured employers right to review u nder § 9-1 002 (g). § 9 -1002 (c); see Gilber t & Hu mphre ys, Jr., supra, at § 14.3-1 at 300. 12 the protection of the injured worker who might otherwise receive no compensation for work-related injuries if the workers immediate employer had not obtained workers' compensation coverage and had little resources to pay damages in a personal injury action. Those provisions permitted the principal contractor to be considered as "an employer" of the subcontractors' workers. Id. at 253, 661 A.2d at 743-44. The Fund's view would embrace the term "statutory employer" within the meaning of employer in the statute. The Fund's view may not be re conciled w ith the langu age of the statute or the undisputed facts of the present case. Danner had an employer, Stivers, regardless of the resolution of NWJ's status. Although the issue of whether a statutory employer existed, if resolved affirmatively, could relieve the Fund ultimately from the o bligation to co ntinue to pay the compensation order, Danner's employer at the time of the award was Stivers. Moreover, the potentiality for NWJ to be found to be Danner s statutory employer should not provide the basis for the Fund to avoid, delay, or defer its obligation to pay because the Fund is entitled to full subrogation rights should it pay benefits to a claimant and later gain the right to recover the payment of those be nefits from a statutory employer. 16 Hence, the Fund 16 The Workers Compensation Act allows the Fund to recover from a third party or the party liable for the workers compensation payments made by the Fund: § 9-1003 Su brogation to righ ts of claimant. (a) In general. If the Fund makes payment to a covered employee o r the depen dents of a covered employee as directed by the Commission, the Fund is subrogated to the rights of the covered employee or dependents against the uninsured (continued...) 13 subseque ntly could recover from NWJ, if, as, and when the latter was determined to be liable, for any payments the Fund made previously to Danner as the result of the 14 June 2002 Commission order. Given that both the uninsured em ployer and the Fund pre sumably are better able to bear the cost of d eferred ad judication o f collateral issues than the injured worker who has been found to be entitled to relief, the adverse effe cts of an unp aid compensation award upon the injured worker are f ar greater than those of a compensation award paid co ntingen tly by the Fu nd. The Fund further contends that a prior codification of the Workers Compensation Act supports the alleged stay of its duty to make compensation payments where there is an outstanding issue. Former §§ 90 and 95 provided: § 90. Wha t awards payable from [F]und; procedure for paymen t. (a) Notwithsta nding an y other pro vision of this ar ticle, when a claim for compensation is filed by an employee, or in case of 16 (...continued) employer. § 9-1004 Subrogation to rights of uninsured employer. (a) In genera l. If the Fund pays compensation to a covered employee or the dependents of a covered employee, the Fund is subrogated to the rights of the uninsure d employer u nder this title. (b) Recovery by Fund. If the Fund and the uninsured employer both have paid compensation to or on behalf of a covered employee or the dependents of a covered employee, the Fund shall app ly any m oney that i t reco vers from a thir d party: (1) first, to repayme nt of the award paid by th e Fund . . . . 14 death, by his dependents, and the employer has failed (1) to secure the payment of compensation in accordance with § 16 of this article, (2) to make deposit of security in accordance with § 16 of this article and (3) to make payment of compensation according to the terms of any award w ithin thirty days thereafter, then, unless an application for review has been timely made or a notice of ap peal has b een timely s erved in th e interim , the award shall be payab le out of the Fund cre ated unde r this subtitle in the manner and subject to the conditions hereinafter set forth. (b) Promptly after the elapse of the 30 d ay period prov ided in subsection (a) of this sec tion the Commission shall notify the employer that the employer is in default. The em ployer shall make prompt p ayment of th e award. If the emplo yer objects to the award, he shall, within 30 days, notify the Commission of the reasons for the objection. The employer's notice to the Commission shall serve as application for review under the provisions of § 95 of this article. (c) If the emp loyer does not notify the Comm ission of his objection as provided in subsection (b) and does not make payment of the award, the claimant may apply to the Director of the Uninsured Employers' Fund Board for payment from the Fund. § 95. App lication of provisions with respect to procedure and right to appeal to courts. The provisions of this article with respect to procedure and the right to appeal to the courts shall be reserved to the claim ant, and to the uninsured employer, and to the [F]und. Md. Code (1 957, 197 9 Repl. Vol., 1984 Cum. S upp.), Art. 101 (repealed by 1991 Md. Laws, Chap. 8) (emp hasis ad ded). The Revisor's Note to the 1991 Volume of § 9-1002 provided that: 15 This section is new language derived without substantive change from former Art. 101, § 90(a) throug h (c) an d § 95 . . . [and] the former phrase "notwithstand ing any other p rovision of this article," is deleted as surplusage. These sections are not different in substance from the p rovisions in the current § 91002. Neither former section addresses w hether an o utstanding is sue not aff ecting directly the valid ity of t he underlying com pensatio n aw ard w ould susp end the F und's obligation otherwise to pay the award. Rather, we conclude that the previous codification supports our determination here that only the raising of issues directly related to the validity of the Commission order establishing the award of compensation, and any subsequent timely appeal of the relevant administrative adjudication of these issues, are the intended statutory triggers for deferring the Fu nd s obliga tion to pay. We found n o languag e or legislative h istory to support the Fund's assertion that it had no obligation to pay Danner because of the pendency of a reserved issue collateral to the award of compensation. Our construction effectuates the Workers Comp ensation A ct s purpos e of protec ting the covered injured workers and providing timely relief to the injured employees. Lutter, 342 Md. at 345, 676 A.2d at 56 (stating the legislature s purpose in creating the Fund w as to protect injured workers whose employers failed, either w illfully or negligen tly, to carry workers compensation insurance for them. ). To interpret the sta tute otherwise would allow a myriad of indirect and collateral issues to impede the injured worker from timely receipt of needed compensation.17 17 Indeed, there is cause now to doubt whether the Fund ultimately could prev ail in avoiding its ob ligat ion to pay, eve n had it ap peal ed tim ely the 14 June 2002 award. In (continued...) 16 III. On 26 November 2002 the Commission held a hearing regarding whether sanctions for non-payment of benefits to Danner should be assessed against the Fund On 11 December 2002, the C ommissio n ordered the Fund to pay to Danner a 40% penalty on the amount of benefits due Danner between 16 February 2001 and 12 November 2002. We agree with the Court of Special Appeals, however, and hold that there is no statutory authority for the Commission to assess a penalty against the Fund. Danner contends that because the Fund failed to pay an award within 30 days, without good cause, it was liable for penalties under § 9-728. Our analysis of this question begins and ends with the imbedded issue of whether the Commission may assess penalties against the Fund as an em ployer or insurer. 18 17 (...continued) Gleneagles, Inc. v. Hanks, 385 Md. 492, 869 A.2d 852 (2005), decided after the proceedings occurred in this case, w e held that ev en a court's ge neral equitab le power was insuf ficient to authorize a stay of a workers' compensation benefit pursuant to § 9-741. We explained that the general purpose of the Workers' Compensation Act was to promote speedy relief to approp riate, agg rieved c laiman ts. Id. at 500, 869 A.2d at 857. That humanitarian policy would be seriously ham pered if weekly payments of compen sation aw arded by th e [C]ommission could be suspended be cause of an app eal. In providing that an app eal should not be a stay the statute was simply adopting a necessary expedient to accomplish one of the important purposes for which it was enacted. Id. 18 Because we decide this issue based on whether the Fund cam e within the statutory definition of employer or insurer, we need not, and do not, reach Danner s claim that the (continued...) 17 Section 9-728 (b) states: Within 30 days. If the Commission finds that an employer or its insurer has failed, without good cause, to begin paying an award within 30 days after the later of the date that the aw ard is issued or the date that payment of the award is due, the Commission shall assess against the employer or its insurer a fine not ex ceeding 4 0% of the amou nt of the pa yment. (Emp hasis ad ded). Penalties may not be a ssessed ag ainst the Fun d becaus e it is not an enumerated party liable for penalties within the te rms of § 9 -728. The statute unambiguously states who may be held liable for penalties 1) em ployers19 and 2) insu rers. The F und is neither. Although Subtitle 7 leaves the term insurer undefined, we read Subtitle 7 in harmony with the remainder of the Workers Compensation Act scheme. An authorized insurer is defined as: "a stock corporation or mutual association that is authorized under the Insurance Article to provide worke rs compensation insura nce in the State." § 9-401 (b ). Similarly, in Subtitle 3, an insurer is defined, in pertinent part, as: (i) a stock corporation or mutual association that is authorized under the Insurance Article to provide workers compensation insurance in the State; (ii) the Injured Workers Insurance Fund; (iii) a governmental self-insurance group that meets the requirements of § 9-404 of this title; (iv) a self-insurance group of private employers that meets the requireme nts of Title 25, S ubtitle 3 of the Insurance Article; or 18 (...continued) Fund acted in bad faith. 19 The Fund cannot be Danner's employer because it was not paying for Danner's carp entry serv ices at the time of his wo rk-re lated injury. 18 (v) an individu al employer tha t self-insures in accordance with § 9-405 of this title. Section 9-316 (a) (3). The Fund does not fall within any of these definitions. Rather, the Fund is a state e ntity establi shed u nder T itle 10, S ubtitle 3 of the Workers' Compensation Act. It does not operate for profit, as would a corpor ation or a mutu al assoc iation. See §§ 10-314 - 10-320 (governing operational aspects of the Fund). The de finition of "insurer" under § 9-316 does not include the Fund, but specifically includes the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, also established under Title 10 of the Workers' Compensation Act. When both the Injured Workers Insurance Fund and the Fund are established under the same title and legislative scheme, but the General Assembly distinguishes between them by including one, but not the other in § 9-316, the exclusion lends support to the construction that the Legislature did not intend to make the Fund liable potentially for penalties. IV. In its 11 December 2002 order, the Commission awarded Danner a $500 attorney s fee for his effo rt to bring to heel the Fund s recalcitrance in not paying the TTD award. The order purportedly applied § 9-734, which provides: If the Commission finds that a person has brought a proceeding under this title without any reasonable ground, the Commission shall assess again st the person the who le cost of the proceeding, including reasonable attorney s fees. We disagree w ith the Cou rt of Specia l Appeals , concludin g instead tha t the Com mission's authority to make such an award is supported by the statute. 19 The threshold that must be crossed initially is whether the Fund's conduct was reasonable.20 In Stevens v. Rite-Aid Corporation, 340 Md. 555, 557, 667 A.2d 642, 643 (1995), we explored the statutory language of § 9-734 while determining Stevens' alleged right to "reopen" her claim pursuant to § 9-736 of the Workers' Compensation Act. We explained that § 9-734 was cod ified origina lly as § 57 of Article 101 of the Maryland Code and that the re-codification of Article 1 01 into Title IX of the La bor and E mploymen t Article was "not intended to have substantive effect" on the new codific ation. Id. at 561-63, 667 A.2d at 645-46 ; see Gilber t & Hu mphre ys, Jr., supra, at § 2.3 at 34. An attorney's fee awarded pursuant to § 9-734 is a sanction against the conduct of a party acting without reasonab le groun d. Stevens, 340 Md. at 564, 66 7 A.2d at 646. Although § 9-734 is titled as "Frivolous Proceedings," it is clear from the intent of the re-c odification th at the title is merely to distinguish the sanction portion of an award of an attorney's fee in §57 from the general provision permitting the award of an attorney's fee found in § 9-731. We need not decide whether the Fund acted frivolously in order to affirm the award of the attorney's fee under § 9-734. 20 Unlike § 9-728, which refers to specific categories of parties that may be liable for penalties (emplo yers and in surers), § 9-734 has no categorical limitations on who may be susceptible to an attorney's fee award. It refers to those potentially liable for attorney s fees only as persons. The Fund, therefore, comes within the definition of person in § 1-101 (d), "an individual, receiver, trustee, guardian, personal representative, fiduciary, or representative of any ki nd and any partn ership, f irm, asso ciation, c orpora tion or o ther enti ty." 20 It is clear from the transcript of the 26 November 2002 hearing that the Commission held that the Fund did not have any reasonable ground for withholding payment to Danner of the 14 June 2002 award. The Co mmission refused to accept the F und s asse rtion that a hearing on 13 September 2002 regarding the status of NWJ and the subsequent appeal of the resultant adverse orde r wa s a tim ely or legit imat e atte mpt to po stpo ne th e Fu nd's obligation to pay in th e face o f Dan ner's dem and lette r of 17 July 2002 . Danner argues that the Fund acted unreasonably in refusing to p ay him the be nefits the Co mmiss ion had award ed. The Fund argues that it did not pay Danner merely because it reasonably interpreted § 9-1002 to operate to abate its obligation to pay D anner. It proffered to the Commissioner that its ongoing contention as to NWJ and its appeal regarding the Commission s resolution of NWJ's status was a reasonable ground for it to believe it had no obli gation to pay. In this case, the Circuit Court rejected the contention (and agreed with the Commission) that the Fund had no reasonable grounds for proceeding with a lengthy administrative challenge and later an appeal of a collateral issue as a basis for not paying Danner s TTD award. The F und did not meet its burden before the Commission to demons trate that it had an a ctual, reason able groun d to decline or de fer p ayme nt of Dan ner's award. The Circuit Court, in rejecting the Fund s motion for summary judgment, left the Commission s order for a $500 attorney s fee intact. We shall not re-weigh facts considered before the Commission. We have stated often that provisions of the Workers' Compensation 21 Act "should be construed as liberally in favor of injured e mployees as its provisions w ill permit in orde r to effe ctuate its benev olent pu rposes . Any uncertainty in the law should be resolved in favor of the claimant." E.g., Gleneagles, 385 Md. at 496, 869 A.2d at 855; Harris, 375 Md. at 57, 825 A .2d at 387; Mayor of Balt. City v. Cassidy, 338 Md. 88, 97, 656 A.2d 757, 761-62 (1995). Both the public policy concerning the plight of the unpaid (and potentially unable to w ork) claima nt and the sta tutory languag e of the A ct support th e timely payment of benefit award s. The Fund's statutory interpretation in this case, though found erroneous ultimately, may have been a reasonable argument to maintain if the Fund had no means to recoup from the uninsured employer or o ther respon sible third party its payment of funds to the c laim ant if paid contingently. The Circuit Court did not err as a matter of law in denying the Fund s motion for summary judgment on this issue. JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS REVERSED RE GARD ING ATTORNEY'S FEE AWARD, OTHE RWISE AFFIRMED; CASE REMANDED TO THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS TO ENTER JUDGMENT CONSISTENT WIT H THIS OPINION AND TO REMAND TH E CASE TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE COUNTY TO ENTER JUDGMEN T CONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION. COSTS TO BE PAID BY THE UNINSURED EMPLOYERS FUND. 22