Johnson v. Baltimore

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Ernest A. J ohnson v . Mayor and City C ouncil of B altimore C ity No. 60, September Term 2004 Daniel T . Luster, Jr., v. M ayor and City Cou ncil of Baltim ore City No. 77, September Term 2004 STATUTORY INTERPRETATION -WORKERS COMPENSATION BENEFITS- PAYMENT OF DEATH BEN EFITS TO DEPEN DENTS OF D ECEASED C LAIMANT Dependents of deceased firefighters who died from occupational diseases covered under § 9-503 are not entitled to receive dual benefits und er § 9-503 (e) becaus e § 9-610 limits work ers comp ensation de ath benefits that may be p aid to dependents who are also receiving the deceased employee s retirement benef its. IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 60 September Term, 2004 _____________________________________ ERNEST A. JOHNSON v. MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY ____________________________________ No. 77 September Term, 2004 _____________________________________ DANIEL T. LUSTER, JR. v. MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY ____________________________________ Bell, C .J Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia Greene, JJ. ______________________________________ Opinion by Greene, J. Battaglia, J., Dissents ______________________________________ Filed: May 12, 2005 The Legislature is often faced with balancing opposing interests and m aking diff icult choices. This case d iscusses som e of the lines drawn b y the Legislature distinguishing workers compen sation bene fits for firefighters as different than for their dependents. We are asked to d ecide the av ailability of dual b enefits for depende nts of firefig hters who die from particular occupational diseases. That issue has been addressed and decided by the Legisla ture. Both Ernest Johnson (M r. Johnson) and D aniel Luster (Mr. Lu ster) were Baltimore City Firefighters who died of cancers that were caused by their repeated contact w ith toxic substances in the line o f duty. The cancer prevented both men from performing their duties as firefighters. Both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Luster are survived by their wives and both wom en rece ive ben efits fro m their h usban ds serv ice pen sion pla ns. The issue before this Court is whether the widows may collect the service pension benefits in addition to the full workers compensation death benefits, or whether the workers compensation death ben efits must be reduced by the amount of service pension benefits the widow s are cu rrently rece iving. We hold that the statute does not permit the dependents to collect full workers compensation death benefits in addition to service pension benefits. FACTS The fac ts in both of these cases are undisputed. Consequently, our recitation of the facts is succinct. Mr. Johnson w orked for thirty-two years as a Baltimore C ity firefighter. As a result of his repeated contact with toxic substances encountered in the line of duty, he contracted colon cancer and be came unable to p erform his duties as a firefigh ter. Mr. Johnson s average weekly wage as a firefighter was $989.75. On March 11, 1994, M r. Johnson died from colon c ancer. 1 Mrs. Johnson was wholly dependent on her husband at the time of his death. She currently receives $603.90 per w eek in benefits from Mr. Johnson s service pensio n plan. Mr. Luster w as also a B altimore C ity firefighter who contracted cancer as a result of his repeated c ontacts w ith toxic substances encountered in the line of duty. Because of the cancer, Mr. Lus ter was un able to perform his duties as a firefighter and ultimately died from pancreatic cancer2 on August 8, 2000. Mr. Lus ter s average weekly wage as a firefighter was $821.52. Mrs. Luste r was w holly dep enden t on her husba nd at the time of his dea th. She curren tly receive s $294 .83 per w eek in b enefits from M r. Luste r s servic e pensi on plan . Both Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster filed workers compensation claims for de ath benefits, which were heard by the Workers Compensation Comm ission, the Circ uit Court for Baltimore City, and the Court of Special Appeals. The Commission a nd the Circuit Court agreed in both cases that the widows were eligible for benefits and that they were permitted to receive a combination of workers compensation and retirement benefits. In both cases, 1 The parties agree that Mr. Johnson s colon cancer is a rectal cancer and is an occupational disease that was suffered in the line of duty, within the meaning of § 9-503 (c) (1) of the Labor and Employment article. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol.), § 9-503 (c) (1) of the Labor and Employment Article. 2 Pancreatic cancer is also an occupational disease that was suffered in the line of duty, within the meaning of § 9-503 (c) (1) of the Labor and Employment Article. Md. Code (1991 , 1999 R epl. Vo l.), § 9-50 3 (c) (1) of the L abor an d Emp loyment A rticle. -2- the Circuit Court granted motions for summary judgment filed by the claimants and denied motions for sum mary jud gmen t filed by th e City. As a result o f these r ulings, the City appea led in bo th cases to the C ourt of Specia l Appe als. In a reported opinion, the Court of Special Appeals held that Mrs. Johnson was eligible for benefits, but that her workers compensation death benefits must be reduced by the amount of service pension benefits that she received.3 Mayor & City Council of Baltimore City v. Johnson, 156 Md. App. 569, 596 (2004). Mrs. Johnson filed a Petition for Certiorari, which we gra nted. Johns on v. B altimo re, 382 Md. 68 7, 856 A.2d 72 3 (2004). Similarly, in an unrep orted opinio n, the Cou rt of Specia l Appeals held that Mrs. Luster was eligible for workers compensation death benefits, but that they must be reduced by the amount of service pension benefits that she received.4 We also granted certiorari in that case. Luster v. Baltimore, 383 Md. 214, 857 A.2d 11 31 (2004). Because the issue before the Court in these case s is identical, we shall decide the cases together and report our decision in one opinion. STANDARD OF REVIEW 3 Mrs. Johnson is eligible to receive workers compensation death benefits in the amount of $510.00 per week . Because she receive s service pe nsion ben efits in the amount of $603.90 per w eek, once the wo rkers compensation b enefits are off-set, Mrs . Johnson receives no workers compensation death benefits. She does, however, continue to receive the serv ice pen sion be nefits o f $603 .90 per w eek. 4 Mrs. Lu ster is eligible to re ceive wo rkers com pensation death benefits in the amount of $510.00 per week. Offsetting that amount by the amount she receives in service pension benefits, results in a payment of $215.17 per week in workers compensation death benefits. She als o contin ues to re ceive $ 294.83 per we ek in se rvice pe nsion b enefits . -3- Under Md. Rule 2-501 (e), summary judgment may be granted if the motion and response show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the party in whose favor judgment is entered is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We review the grant of summa ry judgment de novo. Walk v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 382 Md. 1, 14, 852 A.2d 98, 105 (2004). Whether the Circuit Court properly granted summary judgment is a question of law . Id. Therefo re, we mu st decide if th e trial court s decision w as legally correct . Id. In this case, we are called up on to interpret a statu te. The que stion befor e us is purely a legal on e. See Salamon v. Progressive Classic Insurance Company, 379 Md. 301, 307, 841 A.2d 858, 862 (2004) (noting that the only issue presented in that case was a question of law involving statutory interpretation); Davis v. Slater , 383 Md. 599, 604, 861 A.2d 78, 80-81 (2004) (stating that [b]ecause our interpretation of . . . provisions of the Maryland Code . . . are approp riately classified as questions of law, we review the issues de novo to determine if the trial court was legally correct in its rulings on these m atters. ). DISCUSSION Section 9-502 of the La bor and Em ployment Article requires emp loyers and insurers to compensate co vered employees and their dependents for d isability or death tha t results from an occupational disease.5 This section also limits the liability of employers and insurers 5 We hav e previously d efined occupational disease as one which arises from causes incident to the profession or labor of the p arty s occupation or callin g. It has its origin in the inherent nature or mode of work of the profession or industry, and it is the usual resu lt -4- by requiring the occupational disease to meet certain requirements in order to be compen sable. The section pro vides in per tinent part: (a) Disa bleme nt def ined. In this section, disablement means the event of a covered employee becoming partially or totally incapacitated: (1) because of an occupational disease; and (2) from performing th e work of the covered employee in the last occupation in which the covered employee was injurio usly exposed to the hazards of the occupational disease. * * * (c) Liability of employer and insurer. Subject to subsection (d) of this section and excep t as othe rwise p rovide d, an emplo yer and insure r to whom this subsection applies sha ll provide co mpensa tion in acco rdance w ith this title to: (1) a covered employee o f the emp loyer for disabil ity of the covered employee resulting from an occupational disease; or (2) the dependents of the covered employee for death of the covere d emp loyee resu lting fro m an o ccupa tional di sease. (d) Limitation o n liability. An employer and insurer are liable to provide compensation under subsection (c) of this section only if: (1) the occupational disease that caused the death or disability: (I) is due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease exist and the covered employee was employed before the date of disablement; or (ii) has manifestations that are consistent w ith those kno wn to result from exposure to a biological, chemical, or physical agent that is attributable to the type of employment in which the covered employee was em ployed befo re the date o f disablem ent; and (2) on the weig ht of the evidence, it reasonably may be concluded that the occupational disease was incurred as a result of the e mploym ent of th e cove red em ployee. . . . or concomitant. Polom ski v. May or & City Coun cil of Ba ltimore , 344 Md. 70, 78 n.8, 684 A.2d 1338, 1 341 n.8 (1996) (quoting Victory Spark ler Co. v . Franc ks, 147 Md. 368, 379, 128 A. 635, 638 (19 25)). -5- Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol.), § 9-502 of the Labor and Employment Article. Section 9-50 3 of the L abor and Emp loyment Article carves out an exception to the general occupational disease provisions noted in § 9-502 by giving special treatment to employees in particular professions who are suffering from particular diseases. Section 9503 affords th ose emp loyees the benefit of a presumption that their condition is a compen sable occupational disease.6 It also permits those employees to collect workers compensation benefits in a ddition to retirement benefits, up to the amou nt of the employee s wee kly salary. 7 Section 9-5 03 © state s in pertinent p art: A paid fir efighte r . . . is presumed to be suffering from an occupational disease that was suff ered in the line of duty and is com pensable u nder this title if the individual: (1) has leukemia or pancreatic, prostate, rectal, or throat cancer that is caused b y contact with a toxic substance that the individu al ha s enc ountered in the line of duty; (2) has completed at least 5 years of service as a firefighter . . . in the departme nt where the individu al currently is employed or serves; (3) is unable to perform the normal duties of a firefighter . . .in the department where the individual currently is employed or 6 The burden of production and persuasion remain on the employer. Although the presumption of compensa bility is a rebuttable one of fact, the legislature manifestly intended that the statute impose a form idable burden on the party against whom it operates. Mon tgome ry Fire Board v. Fishe r, 298 M d. 245, 2 57, 468 A.2d 6 25, 631 (1983 ). 7 By Contrast, § 9-610 of the Labor & Employment Article, which will be discussed later in the opinion, states the general rule that employees and their dependents do not receive both workers compensation benefits and disability retirement benefits, unless the employee is owed more money in workers compensation benefits than he or she is currently receiving in disability retirement benefits. In that case, the employee is entitled to receive the differe nce. See Blevins & Wills v. Baltimore, 352 M d. 620, 7 24 A.2 d 22 (1 999). -6- serves b ecause of the c ancer o r leukem ia disab ility . . . . Md. Code (1991 , 1999 Repl. Vo l., 2004 Supp.) § 9-503 (c) of the Labor and Employment Article. Sec tion 9-503 (e) provide s in pertinent p art: (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any paid firefighter . . . who is eligible f or bene fits und er subs ection (a ), (b), (c), o r (d) of this section shall receive the benef its in addition to any benefits that the individual is entitle to receive under the retirement system in which the individual was a particip ant at the time of the claim . (2) The ben efits received under this title shall be ad justed so tha t the week ly total of those benefits and retirem ent benef its does not e xceed the weekly salary that w as paid to the . . . fir efighte r . . . . Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2004 Supp.) § 9-503 (e) of the Labor and Employment Article. There is no dispute in either of th e cases at ba r regarding whether the firefigh ters themselves would have been permitted to collect workers compensation benefits and retirement benefits simultaneously. Section 9-503 (e) clearly permits firefighters suffering from particular occupational diseases to re ceive both benefits, as lo ng as those benefits do not exceed the weekly wage paid to the firefigh ters. See Polom ski v. May or & City C ouncil of Baltim ore, 344 Md. 70, 84, 684 A.2d 1338, 1345 (1996) (holding that § 9-503 required the firefighter s workers compensation benefits to be reduced to the extent that, when combined with his retirement benefits, the sum does not exceed his wee kly salary. ). The parties do not agr ee, howe ver, that the de pendents of the firef ighters are also entitled to collect dual benefits, after the death of the firefighters who have succumbed to one of the -7- occupational diseases described in § 9-503. We note tha t § 9-50 3 (e) ma kes no mentio n of de pende nts. Rather, the language reads as if it only pertains to th e individua ls mentioned in th e statute; namely, firefighters (and other public safe ty personnel) who are eligible for benefits because they suffer from particular occupatio nal diseases . Those ind ividuals sha ll receive the workers compensation benefits in addition to any benefits that the individual is entitled to receive under the retirement system in which the individual was a participant at the time of the claim. Md. Code (1991, 1999 R epl. Vol., 2004 Supp .) § 9-503 (e) (1) of the La bor and Employment Article. By contrast, § 9-610 of the Labor & Employment Article specifically mentions depende nts and discusses the usual offset of workers compen sation bene fits that applies to covered g overnm ental emp loyees and the ir depende nts. It states, in pertin ent part: (a) Covered employee of g overnm ental un it or qua si-publi c corpo ration. (1)Except for benef its subject to an offset und er § 29-11 8 of the S tate Personnel and Pensions A rticle, if a statute, charter, ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy, regardless of whether pa rt of a pension system, provides a benefit to a covered employee of a governmental unit . . . or, in case of death, to the dependents of the covered employee, payment of the benefit by the employer satisf ies, to the extent of the payment, the liability of the employer and the Subsequent Injury Fund for payment of similar benefits under this title. (2) If a benefit paid under paragraph (1) of this subsection is less than the benefits provided under this title, the employer, the Subsequent Injury Fund, or both shall provide an additional benefit that equals the difference between the benefit paid under paragraph (1) of this subsection and the benefits provid ed und er this title . . . . Md. Code (1991 , 1999 Repl. Vo l.) § 9-610 (a) of the Labor and Employment A rticle. In Blevins & Wills v. Baltimore , 352 Md. 620, 724 A.2d 22 (1999), while discussing the -8- predecessor to this section, we noted that the scheme that unmistakably emerges is that the General Assembly wished to provide only a single recovery for a single injury for governmental employees covered by both a pension plan and workmen s compensation. Blevins, 352 Md. at 639, 724 A.2d at 31 (quoting Frank v. Baltim ore Co unty, 284 Md. 655, 659, 399 A.2d 250, 253 (1979)). We also noted that the Legislature s intention in passing this set-off provision was to m inimize the b urden on the public treasury that wo uld result from providing duplicate b enefits to public employees. Blevins, 352 Md. at 640, 724 A.2d at 31 (quoting Franks, 284 Md. at 66 1, 399 A.2d at 25 4). The City argues that because § 9-503 does not include dependents as eligible for dual benefits, the genera l offset prov ision of § 9 -610 app lies to Mrs. Johnson a nd Mrs. Luster, as dependents of c overed governm ental employees. As a result, the City asserts, their workers compen sation death benefits should be reduced by the amount of service pension benefits they are receiving. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster, however, argue that the offset provision in § 9-610 does not apply to them. Rather, they contend that they are included under the more f avorable provision in § 9-503 because their husbands were eligible for those dual be nefits w hen the y were al ive. Clea rly, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster would have a much ea sier claim if the statute provided that the indiv idual and his or her dependents are entitled to collect dual benefits. They assert, however, that even th ough depend ents are not mentioned in § 9-503 (e), the statute does not explicitly exclude dependants from dual benefits and, when considered -9- within the context of the rest of § 9 -503 and the purp ose of worke rs compensation laws, depen dents sh ould no t be exc luded. We remind ourselves that the cardinal rule of statutory interp retation is to asc ertain and effect uate the intentio n of the legislatu re. O Connor v. Baltimore County, 382 Md. 102, 113, 854 A.2d 1191, 1198 (2004). As noted by this Court in Oaks v. Conners, 339 Md. 24, 35, 660 A.2d 4 23, 429 (1995): The first step in dete rmining legislative intent is to look at the statutory language and "[i]f the words of the statute, construed according to their common and everyday meaning, are clear and unambiguous and express a plain meaning, we will giv e effect to th e statute as it is written." Jones, supra, 336 Md. at 261, 6 47 A.2 d 1204 . See also Parrison, supra, 335 Md. at 559, 644 A.2d 53 7; Rose, supra, 335 M d. at 359, 64 3 A.2d 9 06; Outmezguine v. State, 335 M d. 20, 41 , 641 A .2d 870 (1994 ). See also Greco v. State, 347 Md. 423, 429, 701 A.2d 419, 422 (1997) (noting that our goal is to give statutes their most reasonable interpretation, in accord with logic and common sense, a nd to av oid a co nstructio n not ot herwis e evide nt by the w ords ac tually used ). A review of the context of all of § 9-503 and the general statutory purpose will assist us in determining the Legisla ture s in tent and our con struction of § 9- 503 (e) . See Frost v. State, 336 Md. 12 5, 137-38, 647 A .2d 106, 112 (199 4) (noting that we s eek to avo id interpretations that are illogic al, unreason able, or inconsistent with common sense, and that the commonsensical approach to interpreting statutes includes a review of the general statutory schem e in which the statute in q uestion is fo und); Forbes v. Harleysville Mutual, 322 Md. 6 89, 696 -97, 58 9 A.2d 944, 947-48 (1991) (stating that we do not read statutory language in isolation or out of context [but construe it] in light of the legislature s general purpose and in the context of the statute as a whole. ). As stated in Kaczorowski v. Mayor of Baltimore, 309 Md. 505, 516, 525 A.2d 628, 633 (1987), when determining the context -10- of a statute, legislative purpose is critical, that purpose must be discerned in light of context, and that statutes are to be construed reasonably with reference to the purpose to be accomplished . . . . The purpose, in short, determined in light of the statute s context, is the key. And that purpose becomes the context within which we ap ply the pla in-mea ning ru le. (Quoting Potter v. Bethesda Fire D ept., 309 Md. 347 , 353, 524 A.2d 6 1, 64 (1987).) In addition, context may include related statutes, pertinent legislative history and other material that fairly bears on the . . . fun dame ntal issu e of leg islative p urpose or goal . . . . Kaczorowski, 309 M d. at 515 , 525 A .2d at 63 2 (198 7). With regard to the history and general purpose of the Workers Compensation Act, this Court has explained: By Chapter 800 of the Acts of 1914, the Maryland Workers Compensation Act was ena cted into law in this State. Sin ce that time, the Act has gone through several revisions, reflecting both changes in societal attitudes, workplace realities, and, of course, political compromises. Despite some peripheral sparring ov er the prope r aims of the Act and th e role of the Commission, the core values that prompted this beneficial legislation have never been abandoned . . . . In r eality, the Act protects employees, employers, and the public a like. To be sure, the Act maintains a no-fault compensation system for em ployees a nd their familie s . . . . At the same time, however, the Act also recognizes the n eed to prote ct employers f rom the un predictable nature and expense of litigation, and the public from the overwhelming tax burden of caring for the helpless human wreckage found [along] the trail of mode rn indu stry. * * * Of course, twenty-five years of experience brought in evitable ma turity to the Act, and the Legislature eventually recognized that accidents w ere not the so le cause of employee h arm. By Ch apter 465 o f the Acts o f 1939, ce rtain occupational diseases were deemed compensable if contracted during the course of employment. The 1939 amendments to the Act entitled employees disabled or killed by specific enumerated occupational diseases to compensation as if su ch disa bleme nt or de ath we re an inju ry by accide nt. Ch. 465, § 32 B of the A cts of 193 9 . . . . Eventuall y, the practice of enumerating specific diseases was abandoned, and all occupational diseases were, subject to ce rtain conditio ns not h ere relev ant, dee med c ompe nsable . . . . As with accidental injuries, the burden of proving a disease as occupational genera lly fell to the claima nt. * * -11- * A little more than three decades after its formal recognition of occupational diseases, the General Assembly turned its attention to certain fire fighters, concluding that they were susceptible to diseases formerly not recognized as occupational . . . . By Chapter 695 of the Acts of 1971, th e Legislature amended the Act an d granted a presump tion of com pensability in favor of certain classes of fire fighters sufferin g from heart or lung disease, or hypertension. Polomski v. Mayor & City Cou ncil of Baltim ore, 344 Md. 70, 76-78, 684 A.2d 1338, 1340-41 (1996) (footnotes and internal citations omitted). The Legislature later added additional public safety employees and occupational diseases to the list of persons entitled to a presumption of com pensability. See, e.g ., Chapter 282 of the Acts of 1972 (expanding the scope to include certain police officers); C hapter 760 of the A cts of 1985 (adding firefighters and others that become disabled from certain types of cancer); Chapter 179 of the Acts of 1999 (adding Department of Natural Resources employees who are suffering from Lym e disease ). Discussing the predecessor to § 9-503, we noted that it is reflective of a social policy affording preferential treatment to fire fighters disabled by heart disease. Montgomery County Fire B oard. v . Fisher , 298 Md. 245, 257, 468 A.2d 625, 632 (1983). 8 The question before us is whether the Legislature intended to extend that preferential treatment to the dependents of those firefighters. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster frame this question as whether the Legislature intended to extend preferential treatment to live firefigh ters as well as deceased firefighters. Either way, we think the answer is yes, but. We are required to construe the Act a s liberally in favor of injured e mployees as its provisions will permit in order to effectuate its benevolent purposes. Any uncertainty in the law should be resolved in favor of the claimant Harris v. Board of Education of Howard County, 375 Md. 21, 57, 825 A.2d 365, 387 (2003) (quoting Baltimore v. Cassidy, 338 Md. 8 Clearly, the Legislature extended that preferential treatment to firefighters that become disabled from certain types of cancer. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol.), § 9-503 (c) of th e Labo r and E mploym ent Art icle. -12- 88, 97, 656 A.2d 757, 761-62 (1995)). H aving said th at, however, it is also well settled that the court may no t disregard the plain meaning of the Act in the name of liberal construction . . . . Baltimore v. Cassidy, 338 Md. 88, 97, 656 A.2d 757, 762 (1995). We may not read language into a statute that is not there, even if we are not satisfied with the outcome of the case. We cannot assume authority to read into the Act what the Legislature apparently deliberately left out. Howard Contr. C o. v. Ye ager, 184 Md. 503, 511, 41 A.2d 494, 498 (1945). In Schme izl v. Schme izl, 186 Md. 371, 46 A.2d 619 (1945), while discussing a widow s right to inherit, this Court wrote: Appellants urge the court to read an exception into the statute of distribution on the theory that the Legislature could never have intended any consequences so unjust. The doctrine of equitable construction, accepted by the Roman law, was introduced in England before the rise of courts of chancery. It was a conception of po wer, existing side by side with the law yet not in derogation of it . . . . But the doctrine giving the ju dge pow er to mou ld the statute in accordance with his notions of justice has no place in our law. We follow the fundamental rule that a co urt is not at liber ty to surmise a legislative intention contrary to the letter of the statute, or to indulge in the license of inserting or omitting words with the view of making the statute express an intention which is not eviden ced in the orig inal form . A statute should be construed according to the ordinary and natural import of its language, unless a different meaning is clearly indicated by the context, without resorting to subtle or forced interpretation for the p urpose of exten ding or limiting its opera tion. Where there is ambiguity in the provisions of a statute , or the intention of the legislature is doubtfu l, the court may look to the consequences; but where the language of the statute is clear and explicit, and expresses a definite and sensible meaning, the court cannot disregard the mandate of the Legislature and insert an exception, where none has been made by the Legislature, for the sake of relievin g again st hards hip or in justice. Schme izl, 186 M d. at 375 , 46 A.2 d at 621 (emph asis add ed). The preferential treatment for firefighters mentioned in Montgomery Cou nty Fire -13- Board v. Fishe r, does not pertain to the provision for dual benefits found in § 9-503 (e). Rather, the Court specifically referenced the presumption of compensability when addressing the issue of prefere ntial treat ment. See M ontgom ery Co unty F ire Boa rd. v. Fis her, 298 Md. 245, 257-58, 468 A.2d 625, 631 (1983) (explaining preferential treatment and stating [a]lthough the pres umptio n of co mpen sability is a re buttable one of fact, the legislature manifestly intended that the statute impose a formidable burden on the party against whom it operates. A ccordingly, bo th the burde n of prod uction and the burden of persua sion rema in fixed on the employer . . . ). The dependents of deceased firefighters, along with living firefighters, are entitled to that statutory presumption of compensability if the firefighters suffer from one of the diseases mentioned in § 9-503. That does not mean, however, that the dependents of d eceased firefighters are entitled to the dual be nefits provided to firefighters and others by § 9-503 (e). As previously noted, § 9-503(e) does not mention dependents. 9 The language in that section reads as if the 9 By stark contrast, there are numerous workers compensation statute provisions that do mention th e treatment o f depend ents, eviden cing the fa ct that the Le gislature has considered dependents and made provisions for them in a number of other workers compensation scenar ios. See, e.g ., § 9-501 (requiring compensation to the dependents of the covered e mployee fo r death of the covered employee resulting from accidental injury); § 9-502 (requiring compensation to dependents of the covered employee for death of the covered employee re sulting from an occup ational disease); § 9-678 ( A dependent of a covered employee who is entitled to compensation for the death of the covered employee resulting from an accidental person al injury or occu pational dise ase shall be p aid compensation in accorda nce with th is Part XII of this subtitle. ); § 9-681 (establishing the amount of death b enefits to be paid individua ls who w ere who lly dependent on a deceased covered employee at the time of death resulting from an accidental personal injury or (contin ued...) -14- Legislature intended to provide b enefits to firefighters and (other public safety employees) who are living but unable to work as a result of their occupational diseases.10 Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster contend that by refusing them the dual benefits, the Court has treated living firefighters differently from deceased firefighters. C ontrary to their assertions, to place living firefighters in a better position (vis-a-vis compensation) than the depende nts of deceased firefighters, is not at odds with the overall statutory scheme. For example, § 9-681 of the Labor and Employment Article discusses workers compensation 9 (...continued) occupational disease ); § 9 -682 (estab lishing the amou nt of death benefits to b e paid individuals who were partly dependent); § 9-683 (establishing a system for payment of death benefits to multiple de pendents ); § 9-684 (lim iting the liability of em ployers and in surers if there are no depende nts); § 9-685 (discussing what happens to benefits if the dependent dies before the death benefit has been paid); § 9-686 (d iscussing the system for rec eiving ben efits for nonresident alien dependents). That is not an exhaustive list. It is abundantly clear that the Legislature has spent a considerab le amount of time and effort providing for the treatment of dependents in workers compensation cases. If the Legislature intended to provide depende nts with the particular benefit urged in the case at bar, it was well able to do so explicitly. 10 (1) Except as provided in paragr aph (2) of this su bsectio n, any paid firefighter . . . who is eligible for benefits under subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d) of this section shall receive the benefits in addition to any benefits that the individual is entitled to receive under the retirement system in which the individual was a particip ant at the time of the claim . (2) The ben efits received under this title sh all be adjusted so that the w eekly total of those bene fits and retirem ent benef its does not e xceed the weekly salary that w as paid to the . . . fir efighte r . . . Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2004 Supp.) § 9-503 (e) of the Labor and Employment Article ( emph asis add ed). -15- death benefits for dependents and limits those benefits to two-thirds of the average w eekly wage of the deceased covered employee. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol, 2004 Supp .), § 9-681 (b) of the Labor an d Employment A rticle. By contrast, § 9-503 (e)(2) permits the firefighters to receive d ual benef its up to the full amo unt of their w eekly salary. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. V ol., 2004 Supp.) § 9-503 (e) (2) of the Labor and Employment Article. It appears that firefighters who su ffer disability as a result of an accidental injury or an occupational disease not mentioned in § 9-503 are also subject to the offset provisions of § 9-610.11 Moreover, it is clear that the dependents of firefighters who die as a result of accidental injury or occupational disease not mentioned in § 9-503 are subject to the offset provisions of § 9-610. We cannot think of any logical reason w hy the Legisla ture wou ld have intended to place the dependents of firefighters who die while saving people from a burning building in a worse position than dependents of firefighters who die from cancer that they contracted while saving people from a burning building.12 Without an express statutory provision delineatin g such a scheme, we will not impose one. The Legislature is not obligated to treat all pub lic employees in relation to their p ension an d retiremen t benefits 11 Section 9-610 is a general provision pro hibiting the p ayment of d ual benef its in workers compen sation cases. Section 9-5 03 (e) prov ides an exc eption to the general rule for particular persons suffering from particular occupational diseases. There is no similar exception provided for in § 9-501, (accidental personal injury), or in § 9-502, (occupational disease in general). 12 See Chesapeake Charter, Inc. v. Anne Arundel County Bd. of Educ ., 358 Md. 129, 135, 747 A.2d 625, 628 (2000) (noting that we may consider the consequences resulting from one meaning rather than another, and adopt that construction which avoids an illogical or unre asonab le result, o r one w hich is in consiste nt with comm on sen se. ). -16- similarly. Polom ski, 344 Md. at 83, 684 A.2d at 1344. Similarly, the Legislature is not required to treat the dependents of f irefighters in the same man ner as the firefighters themse lves. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster argue that our decision in Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy, 366 Md. 467, 784 A.2d 569 (2 001) re quires a differe nt result. We disag ree. As no ted by this Court in Breitenbach, if the plain meaning of the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, and cons istent with bo th the broad pu rposes of th e legislation, an d the specif ic purpose of the provision being interpreted, our inquiry is at an end. Breiten bach, 366 Md. at 473, 784 A.2d at 572 (citation omitted). It is only when the language is ambiguous that we look to addition al sourc es, such as legisla tive histo ry or prior c ase law . Id. Section 9-503 is not am biguou s. Moreover, our interpretation of the statute discussed in Breitenbach does not illuminate the situation before us. In that case, we read Md. Code (1991, 1999 R epl. Vol), § 9-660 (a) (1) of the Labor & Employment Article to be sufficiently broad to encompass reasonab le travel expenses to and from medical treatments, the cost of which are covered under the statu te. Breitenbach, 366 Md. at 482, 784 A.2d at 579. The statute notes that the Commission may require p ayment of medical, surgical, or other attenda nce or tr eatmen t, to a covered employee who has suffered an accidental personal injury, compensable hernia, or occupa tional di sease. Breitenbach, 366 M d. at 475,78 4 A.2d a t 574. In add ition, w e interpreted § 9-674 of the Labor & Employment A rticle to place an obligation on em ployers -17- and insurers to pay for the transportation expenses of all claimants receiving vocational rehabilitation services ex cept, in unu sual circumstances, those receiving vocational rehabilitation training. Breitenbach, 366 Md. at 482,784 A.2d at 578. We reached that result by concluding that the limited restriction on transportation, found in § 9-674, implied that there was a general b enefit for tran sportation ex penses. C oncluding that § 9-660 was ambiguous regarding the reimbursement of travel expenses, we considered the affect of § 9674 on § 9-660 and applied the rule of liberal construction to resolve the ambigu ity in favor o f the cla imant. Breitenbach, 366 M d. at 484 ,784 A .2d at 57 9. The present case bears no resemblance to th e circumstances just described. The statute in the ins tant case is not am biguou s. Moreover, even if it were, a review of the treatment of depen dents throu ghout the Act would lead to the same result. In the present case, there is no limited restriction on benefits that implies a general entitlement to benefits. Rather, there is a general restriction on collecting dual benef its (§ 9-610) and a limited exception for certain public safety workers suffering from particular occupational diseases (§ 9-503). Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Luster also argue that our decision in United States v. Streidel, 329 Md. 533, 620 A.2d 905 (1993) req uires us to decide in their favor. Again, we disagree. In Streidel, we concluded that the limitation on noneconomic damages in personal injury cases did not apply to wrongful death actions. Streide l, 329 Md . at 537, 620 A.2d at 907. We reached that decision by relying on the language of the statute and its context, the -18- extensive legislative history, and the practical and unresolved difficulties of applying the cap statute to reduce an award of damages in a wrongful death action . . . Streidel, 329 Md. at 539, 620 A.2d at 908-09. The statute at issue in that case limits the aw ard for no neconom ic damages in any action for damages for personal injury . . . . Streidel, 329 Md. at 537, 620 A.2d at 908 (quoting § 11-108 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article). We considered significant th e fact that the statute did not say personal injury, or death , when determining that the statute did not apply to w rongf ul death actions . Streidel, 329 Md. at 540, 630 A.2d at 911. In addition, we noted that the remainder of the cap statute, when read as a whole, indicates that the General Assembly did not intend personal injury to include those damages recoverable in a wrongful death action. Streide l, 329 Md. at 544, 630 A.2d at 911. Similarly, the statute before the Court in this case makes no m ention of d ependen ts and we have decided, (in view of the plain language of § 9-503 (e) and the application of § 9-610 of the Labor and Employment Article), that it does not apply to them. We also considered the rest of the Act s treatment of dependents and concluded that our dec ision fits within that structure. Our method of decision is consistent with the reasoning in Streidel. 13 13 Although Mrs. Johnson and M rs. Luster rely on our decision in Streide l, our brief discussion of the W orkers Co mpensa tion Act in Streidel is not particularly helpful to the question before us and does not change the analysis. We stated: Similarly, in Cod e (1991 ), § 9-101 of the Labor and Employment Article, the Worker s Compensation Act defines an accidental personal injury in part as (contin ued...) -19- In fact, that case contains the following relevant admonition: Although the inclusion of wrongful death actions might well be consistent with the principal purpose of the cap statue, there are many oth er ways in which the statute could be broaden ed that wo uld also be c onsistent w ith its principle purpose. Amending the statute, however, is not the function of the ju dicia ry. Inclusion of wrongful death actions is not consistent with the language, context and legislativ e history o f the ca p statute . . . we are not free to rewrite a sta tute merely because the Court believes that the legislature s purpose would have been m ore eff ectively ad vance d by an ad ditional provisio n. Streidel, 329 Md. at 550, 630 A.2d at 914. In the instant case, it is clear that the Legislature found it acceptable to treat living firefighters suffering from certain cancers and other occupational diseases differently than the dependents of those firefighters. While that result may seem unfair to some, the Court is not free to ignore the statutory requirem ents in orde r to remedy any perceived unfairness. 13 (...continued) an accidental injury that arises out of and in the course of employment. No express reference is made in this definitional section to whether an accidental personal injury includes wrongful death. The W orker s Co mpensa tion Act, however, from the time of its enactment in 1914, has included a section outlining a system of compensation for the family of a decedent, in the event of a death which arises out of and occurs in the course of employment. Conseq uently, compensation fo r an injury under the Worker s Compensation Act includes com pensation f or a deced ent s family in th e event of an accide ntal dea th. Streidel, 329 Md. at 543, 630 A.2d at 911. There is no question that dependents of deceased firefighters are entitled to collect benefits in the event of a death arising out of and in the course of employment, either from accidental injury or from occupational disease. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol), § 9-678 of the Labor and Employment Article. The amount of compensation for a decedent s family, however, is expressly limited by § 9-610. Our brief discussion of the Workers Compensation Act in Streidel did not address the question of dual benef its or limita tions on benef its. -20- The Workers Compensation Act refle cts the Legislature s considered judgment as to the appropriate allocation of resources between employers, employees, and the taxpayers of th is State. Amet ek v. O Conn or, 364 Md. 143, 157, 771 A.2d 1072, 1080 (2001) (citation omitted). In view o f that adm onition, we will not violate the statutory mandate in any particular case in an attempt to avoid a perceived unjust res ult. See State Retirement and Pension System v. Thom pson, 368 Md. 53, 67-71, 792 A.2d 277, 285-88 (2002) (discussing a case in which a claimant received reduced disability retirement benefits because he was also receiving w orkers com pensation b enefits and refusing to permit the C ircuit Court to order the State Retirement and Pension System to pay the claimant more than the relevant statutes p ermitted , even th ough th e claim ant wa s in a dif ficult fin ancial p osition) . We have previously noted that the Legislature must be the body to remedy any unfairness in the Wo rkers Com pensation A ct, should the y consider it necessary. Gleneagles, Inc. v. Han ks, 385 Md. 492, ___ , 869 A.2d 852, 860 (2005). A s this Court s tated in Paul v. Glidden, 184 Md. 11 4, 39 A.2d 544 (1944), [t]he Workmen s Compensation Act was passed to promote the general welfare of the State and to prevent the State and its taxpa yers from ha ving to care for injured workmen and their dependents, when under the law as it previously existed, such workmen could not recover damages for their injuries. There were, in its first e nactmen t, certain inequalities which have, from time to time, been corrected by amendment. There may be a need for further amendm ent. As to this, we express no opinion, as it is not within our province. Some of the present provisions may be inequitable. To consider this, is also outside the scope of our duties. The enactment is made in pursuance of the police power . . . and the details must be left to the judgment of the Legisla ture, un less som e basic r ight is inf ringed . -21- Glidden, 184 M d. at 119 , 39 A.2 d at 546 . CONCLUSION In conclusion, we hold that the language of §§ 9-503 and 9-610 is clear and unambiguous. Section 9-503 (e) provides an exception to the general offset rule for firefighters and other public safety emp loyees suffering from particular occupational diseases, enabling th em to collec t dual bene fits while they are living. It does not, howev er, provid e that sam e exce ption to the dep enden ts of tho se indiv iduals. JUDGMENTS OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AFFIRMED. PETITIONERS TO PAY COSTS IN COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AND COURT OF APPEALS. -22- IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND No. 60 September Term, 2004 ERNEST A. JOHNSON v. MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY No. 77 September Term, 2004 DANIEL T. LUSTER, JR. v. MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE CITY Bell, C.J. Eldridge Raker Wilner Cathell Harrell Battaglia, JJ. Dissenting Opinion by Battaglia, J. Filed: May 12, 2005 I respectfully diss ent. In this case we have been asked to decide if under Section 9-503(e) of the Labor and Employment Article dependents of firefighters who die from cancer contracted during the course of employment may collect full worker s compensation death benefits and retirement benefits to which a firefighter who survives cancer would be entitled. According to the Majority, when a firefighter survives, he or she is entitled to receive both worker s compensation benefits and retirement benefits, but if the firefighter perishes from cancer contracted during his or her employment, then the general worker s compensation off-set provision contained in Section 9 -610(a)(1) a pplies, substa ntially reducing th e benefits to the depende nts of those firefighters who themselves would otherwise be entitled to the dual benefits. The Majority s argument is premised upon the absenc e of the word dependents in Section 9-503(e). I disagree, and would hold that Section 9-503(e) permits the d ependen ts of firefighters who die from an occupational cancer to collect full worker s compensation death benefits and retirement benefits. Section 9-5 03(e) states in pertinent pa rt: (1) Except a s provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, any paid firefigh ter . . . who is eligible for benefits under subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d) of this section sh all receive the benefits in addition to any benefits that the individual is entitled to receive under the retiremen t system in which the individual was a participant at the time of the claim. (2) The ben efits received u nder this title sha ll be adjusted so that the weekly total of those benefits and retirement benefits does not exceed the we ekly salary that was paid to the . . . firefighter. This Court has often stated that our goal in interpreting statutes is to identify and effectuate the legislative intent underlying the statute(s) at issue. Serio v. Baltimo re Coun ty, 384 Md. 373, 863 A.2d 952, 962 (2004), quoting Drew v. First Guaranty Mortgage Corp., 379 Md. 318, 327, 842 A.2d 1, 6 (2003), in turn quoting Derry v. State, 358 Md. 325, 335, 748 A.2d 47 8, 483 (20 00)); Pete v. State , 384 Md. 47, 57-5 8, 862 A.2d 41 9, 425 (2004); Graves v. State, 364 Md. 329, 346, 772 A.2d 1225, 1235 (2001). As we have stated, the best source of legislative in tent is the statute s plain language and when the language is clear and unambiguous, our inq uiry ordin arily ends there. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 57-58, 862 A.2d at 425; Drew, 379 Md. at 3 27, 842 A .2d at 6; Beyer v. Morgan State Univ ., 369 Md. 335, 349 , 800 A.2d 707, 715 (2002); Whack v. State, 338 Md. 665, 672, 659 A.2d 1347, 1350 (19 95). Although the plain language of the statute guides our understanding of legislative intent, we do not read the language in a vacuu m. See Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Drew, 379 Md. at 327, 842 A.2d at 6; Derry, 358 Md. at 336, 748 A.2d at 483-84. Rather, w e read statutory language within the c ontext of the statutory scheme, considering the "purpose, aim, or policy of the enacting body." Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 57-58, 862 A.2d at 425; Drew, 379 Md. at 327, 842 A.2d at 6; Beyer, 369 M d. at 350, 80 0 A.2d a t 715; In re Mark M., 365 Md. 687, 711, 782 A.2d 332, 346 (2001)(quoting Tracey v. Tracey, 328 Md. 380, 387, 614 A.2d 590, 594 (1992 )). We h ave state d that, [w]hen we pursue the context of statutory language, we are not limited to the words of the statute as they are printed . . . . We may and often must consider other external manifestations or persuasive eviden ce, including . . . . other material that fairly -2- bears on the fundamental issue of leg islative purpo se or goal, which becomes the context within which we read the particular language before us in a given case. Williams v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, 359 Md. 101, 116, 753 A.2d 41, 49 (2000) (quoting Kaczorowski v. Mayor of Baltimore, 309 Md. 505, 514-15, 525 A.2d 628, 632-33 (1987)). When interpreting the language of a statute, we assign the words their ordinary and natural mean ing. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Pete, 384 Md. at 57-58, 862 A.2d at 425; O Con nor v. Baltim ore Cou nty, 382 Md. 102, 114, 854 A.2d 1191, 1198 (2004); Lewis v. Sta te, 348 Md. 648 , 653, 705 A.2d 1 128, 1131 (199 8). Thus, the provisions must be read in a commonsensical perspective to avoid a farfetched interpretation. Serio, 384 Md. at 373, 863 A.2d at 962; Graves v . State, 364 Md. 329, 346, 772 A.2d 1225, 1235 (2001); Frost v. State, 336 Md. 125, 137, 647 A.2d 106, 112 (1994); Dickerso n v. State, 324 Md. 163, 171 , 596 A.2d 648 , 652 (1991). At the heart of this matter is the General Assembly s intent in creating the presumption of compensability for certain occupational diseases and the provision entitling firefighters and other specified public employees to worker s compensation and retirement benefits. We have often stated that the W orker s Co mpensa tion Act is remedial in nature and should be co nstru ed as liber ally in favor of the injured employees a s its provisions will permit in order to effectuate its benevolent purposes. Any uncertainty in the law should be resolved in favor of the claimant. Harris v. B oard of E ducation o f Howa rd Coun ty, 375 Md. 21, 57, 825 A.2d 365, 387 (2003) (quoting Baltimore v. Cassidy, 338 Md. 88, 97, 656 -3- A.2d 757, 76 1-62 (1 995)). As this Court has explained, the Act s purposes include protecting workers and their families from hardships inflicted by work-rela ted injur ies, preventing the State and its taxpayers from having to care for injured workmen and their depen dents, and providing sure and certain relief for workmen injured in extra-hazardous employment and the ir familie s and d epend ents . . . . B. Frank Joy Co. v. Isaac, 333 Md. 628, 634, 636 A.2d 10 16, 1019 (1994) (qu oting the Pre amble to 1914 Md . Laws, Chap. 80 0). When effectuating the benevole nt purpose s of the A ct, this Court h as opined that all sections of the Act must be read together, in conjunction with one another, to discern the true intent of the legislature. Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy, 366 Md. 467, 472, 784 A.2d 569, 572 (2001). Thus, contrary to the Majority s emphasis on the absence of the term dependents in the statute to jus tify its outcome, Section 9-503(e) must be considered in light of the overall history and pu rpose of its enactm ent and should not be r ead in a vacuu m. Id. at 48287, 784 A.2d a t 577-8 1. Section 9-502 of the A ct requires that employers and insurers compensate covered employees and their de pendents for a disab ility or death that results from an occupational disease: a covered employee of the employer for disability of the covered employee resulting from an occupational disease; or the dep endents o f the covere d emplo yee for dea th of the covered employee resulting from an occupational disease. Md. Code, § 9-502(c) of the Labor and Employment Article (emphasis added). The statute limits the liability of the employer/insurer by providing that compensation only must be paid if: -4- (1) the occupational disease that caused the death or disability: (i) is due to the nature of an employment in which hazards of the occupational disease e xist a nd th e cov ered emp loyee was employed before the d ate of disablement; or (ii) has man ifestations tha t are consisten t with those k nown to result from exposure to a biological, chemical, or physical agent that is attributable to the type of employment in which the covered employee was employed before the date of disableme nt; and (2) on the weight of the evidence, it reasonably may be concluded that the occupational disease was incurred as a result of the employment of the covered employee. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2004 Cum. Supp.), § 9-502(d) of the Labor and Employment Article. In the very next se ction, 9-503 , firefighters an d other spe cified pub lic employees suffering from certa in occupa tional diseases, including heart disease an d cancer, are presumed to be suffering from an occupational disease that was su ffered in th e line of du ty and is compensable. Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2004 Cum. Supp.), § 9-503 of the Labor and Employment Article. Section 9-503 was derived from former Maryland Code (1957, 1985 Repl. Vol., 1990 Cum. Supp.) Article 101, § 64A; its purpose was clearly set forth in Chapter 695 of the Acts of 1971: An Act to add new Section 64A to Article 101 of the Annotated Code of Maryland (197 0 Supplemen t), title Workman s Com pensat ion, to follow im mediately after Section 64 thereo f, to provide tha t there is a pre sumptio n of compen sable occupational disease in cases of certain fire fighters sustaining temporary or total disab ility or death under certain conditions, and to provide that benefits may also be payable under a retirement system under certain conditions. -5- 1971 Md. Laws, Chap. 69 5 (emph asis added ). The Ac t, entitled De ath and D isability Payments Fire Fighter s stated in pa rt: Any condition or impairment of health of any paid municipal, county, airport authority, or fire control district fire fighter caused by lung diseases, heart diseases, or hypertension resulting in total or partial disability or death shall be presumed to be compensable under this article and to have been suffered in the line of d uty and as a res ult of his em ployment. 1971 Md. Law s, Chap. 695. In 1985, this section was amended to include throat, prostate, rectal or panc reatic ca ncer, an d leuke mia, see Md. Code (1957, 1985 Repl. Vol., 1990 Cum. Supp.), Art. 101, § 64A(b), and has been recodified into the current Sections 9-503(a) throug h (d) of the Lab or and E mploym ent Art icle. See 1991 M d. Law s, Chap . 8, § 2. We have consistently recognized the legislative intent underlying the presumption of compen sability under Section 9-503 for firefighters suffering from an occupational disease: [T]he Maryland legislature created the presumption in light of the general pu blic knowledge that firefighters in the course of their da ily activities are exposed to inhalation of smoke or noxious fumes and are subjected to unusual stresses and strains. Montgomery County Fire Board v. Fisher, 298 Md. 245, 256, 468 A.2d 625, 630 (1983). Furthermore, the presumption is reflective of a social p olicy affordin g preferential treatme nt to firefighters disabled by heart disease. Although the presumption of compen sability is a rebuttable one of fact, the legislature manifestly intended that the statute impose a formidable burden on the party against whom it operates. Id. at 257, 4 68 A.2 d at 631 . -6- Section 9-503(e), which permits firefighters suffering from one of the enumerated occupational diseases to collect worker s compensation benefits an d retiremen t benefits up to the amount of the firefighter s weekly salary, also was derived from former Section 64A of the Code, which stated: Notwithstanding any provision of this article any paid fire fighter whose compensable claim results from a condition or impairment of health caused by lung diseases, heart diseases or hypertension and has been suffered in the line of duty shall receive such ben efits as are pro vided for in this article in addition to such benefits as he may be entitled to under the retirement system in which said fire fighter was a participant at the time of his c laim. The ben efits received under this a rticle however, shall be adjusted so that the total of all w eekly benefits shall not exceed one hundred percent of the weekly salary which was paid to said fire figh ter. 1971 Md. Laws, Chap. 695. Language was added in 1 985 to add firefighters w ith cancer. See Md. C ode (195 7, 1985 R epl. Vol.), A rt. 101, § 64A (b). The statu tory language was recodified without substantive change into the current Section 9-503(e) and underscores the notion that fire fighters are exposed to health hazards not shared by other government employees. Board of County Commissioners for Prince George s County v. Colgan, 274 Md. 1 93, 208 , 334 A .2d 89, 9 7 (197 5). Esse ntial ly, the statutes when read in relation to one another provide that a firefighter diagnosed with one o f the enum erated disea ses in Section 9-503 is presumed to have satisfied the requireme nts of Sec tion 9-502 (d) that he or she is suffering from a prescribed occupational disease that resulted from the hazardous nature of the job. The remaining -7- provisions of Section 9-502, that the employer/insurer must compensate the covered employee and their dependents, are still applicable; thus, it is entirely permissible for depende nts of firefighters who suffer from cancer or heart disease to rely on the same presumption of compensability to receive all of the benefits afforded to the firefighter under Section 9-503(e), even though the term dependents is not mentioned in that provision. The Majority places significance on the absence of the term dependents in Section 9-503(e) because in its view the language reads as if it only pertains to the individuals mentioned in the statute . . . . Those individuals shall receive the worker s compensation benefits in addition to any benefits that the individual is entitled to receive . . . . Maj. op. at 8 (emphasis added in original). Apparently, the Majority relies on the juxtaposition of the word individual in Section 9-503(e) against the listing of specified public service employees in the same section in orde r to exclude depend ents. The Revisor s Notes to Section 9-503, however, explain the use of the term ind ividual : the word ind ividual is substituted for the former word person , since only a human being may be a firefighter, fire fighting instructor, or rescue squad member. As to the definition of person, see § 1-101 of this article [Labor and Employment]. 1991 Md. Laws, Chap. 8, § 2, Revisor s Notes.1 1 Md. Code (1991, 1999 Repl. Vol., 2004 Cum. Supp.), § 1-101 of the Labor and Employment Article, defines a person as: an individual, receiver, trustee, guardian, personal representative, fiduciary, or representative of any kind and any partnership, firm, (contin ued...) -8- Therefore, the Majority s reliance on the term individual to conclude that Section 9-503(e) does not contemplate dependents is misplaced and reads more into the language than was inten ded by the Gen eral A ssem bly. 2 Likewise, the Majority states that the language in [Section 9-503(e)] reads as if the Legislature intended to provide b enefits to firef ighters and (other pub lic safety employees) who are living but unable to work as a result of their occupational diseases. Maj. op. at 1415 (emphas is added). In essence , the Majo rity s holding aw ards the m ore favora ble benef its to those firefighters who have the good fortune of surviving their cancer, but denies those benefits to the widows and children dependent on those firefig hters who se lives we re lost. Such a narrow construction of the statute in light of the General Assembly s focus on protecting firefighters in recognition of the many hazards they face, is contrary to the General Assembly s expressed concern for those firefighters who sacrifice their lives in the line of 1 (...continued) associa tion, cor poratio n, or oth er entity. 2 The Majority also points to various provisions of the Act that specifically refer to the depende nts of a deceased worker as evidence that the absence o f depen dents in Section 9503(e) means tha t the Gene ral Assem bly did not inten d to provid e the same ben efits to depende nts under t his off -set prov ision. I note, however, that none of the referenced sections contain an exclusion for benefits resulting from an occupational disease established under the Sec tion 9-5 03 pres umptio n. -9- duty. In the cases sub judice, there is no dispute that the spouses were wholly dependent on the firefighters who died from their occupational cancers and that the underlying worker s compensation death claim was compensable. A liberal construction of Section 9-503(e) in favor of deceased firefighters supports the benevolent purposes of the statute and the conclusion that the firefighters qualified for the worker s compensation benefits in addition to the retirement benefits. Because I would hold that the f irefighters themselves are entitled to full benefits in recognition of their great sacrifices to protect our communities while in the line of duty, th e depe ndents also sho uld be e ntitled to those b enefits . respec tfully disse nt. -10- Therefore, I