Monday, December 18, 2017

Published:09/30/2014

Ash is a widow of an employee of Millennium who was issued an award of weekly death benefits as the dependent of decedent employee. The award also included benefits for her two minor children who were also decedent’s children. A few years after the award of benefits, Ash remarried. The commission modified the award by terminating Ash’s weekly benefit and awarding her a remarriage benefit equal to the entire death benefit due for a period of two years. Millennium argued that the remarriage benefit under § 287.240(4) should be calculated using only the spouse’s portion of the weekly benefit. The commission disagreed with Millennium and allowed Ash to keep the remarriage benefit based on two years’ worth of the entire weekly death benefit.

The issue, then, was whether Spouse was entitled to a remarriage award that was calculated including every dependents award for weekly death benefits or calculated using just the spouse’s share.

The Court found this issue to be a matter of first impression. The court found that because of the 2005 amendment to chapter 287 requiring strict impression, it was bound to interpret the statute only by the words it used. In the relevant portion of § 287.240(4), the statute states that “a lump sum payment equal in amount to two years shall be paid to the widow…” The court interpreted this language as employing the entire weekly award for the calculation of the lump sum.

Millennium argued that only the spouse’s portion of the weekly award should be used because the next sentence uses the words “the periodic benefits to which such widow or widower would have been entitled.” This, Millennium maintains, should restrict the lump sum award because the two sentences should be read in conjunction. The court, however, found that while the first sentence deals with the lump sum granted through the remarriage award, the second sentence, with the qualifying language, was addressing the periodic weekly death benefit and the circumstances under which it continues to be paid.

Therefore, according to the court, the remarriage benefit calculation should be done using the entire weekly death benefit award, regardless of the existence of other dependents.