Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Court declines to limit remarriage benefits

Missouri worker's compensation law allows a two-year lump-sum benefit to a surviving spouse who remarries.  The Missouri Court of Appeals addressed  whether a surviving spouse receives the full amount of the remarriage benefit  if the surviving spouse was not entitled to 100% of the death benefits. 

In Ash v Millennium Restoration and Construction, SD 32381 (Mo. Ct. App. August 27, 2013); 2013 Mo App. Lexis 1005,  the court construed 287.240(4) clause "the benefits due for a period of two years" to mean the full weekly compensation rate of $742.72 for remarriage benefits, and not the lower amount of $247.57 that had been allocated to the spouse as survivor benefits.

The statute addresses two separate benefits including periodic death benefits and a remarriage benefit.  The provision addressing death benefits contains a provision regarding allocation. The court declined to construe the same provision to remarriage benefits.

"Section 287.240 does not contain any language which expressly indicates that the remarriage benefit should be calculated based only on the amount of the weekly death benefits attributable to the remarrying spouse."  Applying strict construction, the court concludes the employer's argument would require the court to add a limitation not expressly indicated.   The surviving spouse received more than another $50,000 as a statutory  benefit lump-sum for remarrying. 

The  CDC reports more than half of surviving spouses will remarry within a ten year period, depending on age.  

J. Burrell
Atty:  Platter ,Clinkenbeard