Thomas A. Robinson on Death Benefits for Partners in Civil Union: Langan v. State Farm

Thomas A. Robinson on Death Benefits for Partners in Civil Union: Langan v. State Farm

In a recent case of first impression, Matter of Langan v. State Farm Fire & Casualty,2007 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 13242 (December 27, 2007), a New York a state appellate court was faced with a highly charged issue: does the surviving member or partner of a state sanctioned civil union have standing as “legal spouse” of the deceased employee so as to entitle him/her to death benefits under the New York Workers’ Compensation Act?  

 This expert commentary written by Thomas A. Robinson analyzes the case, discusses relevant issues related to domestic partners, state sanctioned civil unions and dependency in within the workers’ compensation context, and observes that except in a few jurisdictions, such as California, which have broad dependency presumption statutes, partners or members of domestic partnerships and civil unions do not enjoy standing to recover death benefits, absent a specific showing of complete or partial dependency.  Robinson further points out that in spite of this courts are reluctant to construe relevant state statutes beyond their literal terms and it is, therefore, left to the various state legislatures to address this important issue.

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