Law School Case Brief
Clayton Coal Co. v. Indus. Com. of Colo. - 93 Colo. 145, 25 P.2d 170 (1933)
The law of Colorado recognizes the validity of common-law marriages.
In her action under the Workmen's Compensation Act, claimant common-law wife Mary Tsikiris (also referred to as "defendant in error" in the opinion) of the deceased employee of Clayton Coal was awarded compensation by defendant in error Industrial Commission because the employee died from injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. The district court affirmed the ruling. The employer (referred to as "plaintiff in error" in the opinion) sought review, contending that because there was no ceremonial marriage, the evidence was wholly insufficient to support the Commission's finding of a common-law marriage.
In an action under the Colorado Workmen's Compensation Act, was claimant entitled to compensation for the work-related death and injuries of her common-law husband?
The Supreme Court of Colorado affirmed the judgment. The Court held that the conduct of the parties was consistent with marriage and inconsistent with any relation other than that of marriage. The uncontradicted evidence of habit and repute pointed strongly to the conclusion that the parties were not living together in illicit relations, but were husband and wife. When decedent employee Tsikiris lay on his deathbed and knew that death was impending, he referred to Mary as his wife. His declaration on that solemn occasion is consistent with the entire history of their relations, is extremely persuasive, and no doubt it was given, as it should have been given, great weight by the commission. Colorado recognizes the validity of common-law marriage; therefore, where the overwhelming evidence was that the parties held themselves out as husband and wife, the Industrial Commission's award of death benefits to the wife was proper.
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