Workers' Compensation

Arkansas: Termination of Parental Rights After Compensable Injury Does Not Affect Dependency Rights of Minor Children

A divided Court of Appeals of Arkansas held that the clear language of Ark. Code Ann. § 11–9–527 did not allow for termination of a minor child’s survivor benefits upon termination of the employee’s parental rights or adoption. Six years before his death, the deceased employee suffered a catastrophic work-related injury that rendered him a quadriplegic and permanently and totally disabled. Two years before his death, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) took custody of his (and his wife’s) two children because of dependency-neglect due, in large part, to both the father’s and mother’s drug use. In March 2013, a court entered an order terminating the parental rights for both the employee and his wife regarding both children. Later that year, the employee died as a consequence of the compensable injury. The majority held that all questions of dependency were to be determined at the time of the injury and that the undisputed facts established that two minor children were, in fact, dependent on the deceased employee, their biological father, at the time of the compensable injury. The majority reasoned that since no circumstances within the Workers’ Compensation Act had terminated their dependency status, the Commission erred in denying the children’s claim for survivor benefits.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See J.M.E. v. Valley View Agri Sys., Inc., 2016 Ark. App. 531, 2016 Ark. App. LEXIS 567 (Nov. 2, 2016)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 98.05.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law