Husband entitled to wife's PTD for death unrelated to her work injury
Taylor v. Ballard R-II School District, et al., No. WD69406 (Mo. Ct. App. 01/27/09).
Ruling: The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed in part, and reversed and remanded in part the commission's decision to grant permanent total disability benefits to the sole dependent of an employee whose death was self-inflicted.
What it means:
When a claimant has been awarded PTD benefits and subsequently dies from a cause unrelated to the work injury, the claimant's surviving dependents are entitled to receive the awarded compensation benefits for their lifetime.
Summary: A school bus driver committed suicide by drug overdose the same day she was awarded PTD benefits for a back injury. Her husband, her sole surviving dependent, was substituted as the recipient of her disability benefits and sought to receive her unaccrued PTD benefits.
The school district argued that the husband was disqualified from receiving her benefits because the bus driver's death resulted from a self-inflicted injury.
Under Missouri law, employees or dependents cannot collect compensation for work-related injuries or work-related deaths that are self-inflicted. However, the Court of Appeals found her suicide was not the reason she was awarded benefits. The court explained the bus driver was awarded the PTD benefits for her back injury, which was a work-related injury.
The husband provided undisputed testimony that he was the bus driver's sole dependent when she was injured. A dependent is "a relative by blood or marriage of a deceased employee, who is actually dependent for support, in whole or in part, upon his or her wages at the time of injury."
The court looked to Schoemel v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri, which stated that an employee's dependents are entitled to receive the employee's PTD benefits for the rest of their lives if the employee subsequently dies of a cause unrelated to the work injury.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission's award of PTD benefits to the bus driver. It reversed the commission's decision with regard to granting PTD benefits to her surviving husband and remanded the case to allow the husband to be entitled to receive her PTD benefits.
March 16, 2009
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