Failure to show marriage under Mexican law dooms fatal claim petition
Case name: Vega v. J.M. Pereira & Sons, 27 PAWCLR 213 (Pa. W.C.A.B. 2012).
Ruling: The Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the workers' compensation judge's denial of the claimant's fatal claim petition.
What it means: If a worker's marriage is valid by the law of the place where it originated, it is valid in Pennsylvania.
Summary: The claimant filed a fatal claim petition alleging that she was the deceased worker's widow, they had a common-law marriage, she was partially dependent on the worker, and she was not living with him at the time of his death. The claimant amended the petition to name two minor children as additional dependents of the worker. The WCJ denied the petition, concluding that the claimant's union with the worker was not a marriage under the laws of Mexico where the claimant and the worker lived together and the claimant resided. The WCJ also found that the claimant did not establish substantial support by the worker. The board ruled that the WCJ properly found that the claimant was not entitled to compensation.
The claimant and worker did not enter into a ceremonial or civil marriage. In Mexico, cohabitation without civil marriage, or having children in common, can create a relationship which provides some legal protections to a surviving partner, but it is not a marriage.
The board also agreed that the addition of the minor children as dependents was time-barred and that prejudice to the employer would result from permitting the amendment.
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March 4, 2013
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