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MO: Injured Employee’s Overdose Death Leads to Lifetime Benefits for Surviving Dependents

November 22, 2013 (1 min read)

In a case that shows what can happen when a court determines that it is absolutely bound by a rigid reading of statutory language, a Missouri appellate court recently held that under the surviving-dependent-becomes-employee-by-definition theory adopted in Schoemehl v. State of Missouri, 217 S.W.3d 900 (Mo. banc 2007), as explained in Gervich v. Condaire, Inc., 370 S.W.3d 617, 622 (Mo. banc 2012), the Court was required to affirm what a concurring judge said was the unreasonable result of awarding lifetime benefits to surviving dependents where the employee’s death was unrelated to the work injury–he died of a drug overdose–when the surviving dependents would have only received benefits during the time of their dependency if the employee’s death had been caused by the work injury [see § 287.240(4), Rev. Stat. Mo.]. Under Schoemehl, a worker’s permanent total disability payments survive to his dependents when the worker dies of causes unrelated to the work injury. The impact of the decision was remedied for subsequent claims by a statutory amendment, but the Schoemehl doctrine applied to this case because of the particular circumstances of the employee’s injury and death.

Reported by Thomas A. Robinson, J.D.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to

See Spradling v. Treasurer of the St. of Mo., 2013 Mo. App. LEXIS 1322 (Nov. 5, 2013) [2013 Mo. App. LEXIS 1322 (Nov. 5, 2013)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 89.03 [89.03]

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