Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Published:09/30/2014

Robert Shelton suffered a workplace injury and filed an action against his employer for workers’ compensation benefits. A year later, for unrelated reasons, Robert passed away and his wife was substituted into the action. The ALJ found that Robert had been permanently and totally disabled and awarded permanent and total disability benefits to his wife for the remainder of her life unless she remarried, at which point in time she would be entitled to the remarriage benefit under Section 287.240.

In Shelton, the question concerned the ALJ’s ruling that the spouse be awarded a remarriage benefit if she would ever remarry.

The commission agreed with the ALJ that Alice Shelton, Robert’s wife, was entitled to Robert’s permanent and total disability benefits as Robert’s dependent for the remainder of her life. As dictated by Schoemehl v. Treasurer, 217 S.W.3d 900 (Mo. 2007), the death of Robert did not end the disability, and his dependent was entitled to the award.

What was novel in Shelton, though, was that the commission analyzed whether Alice Shelton should receive a lump-sum remarriage award in the event she remarried. Section 287.240 states that a spouse who has been receiving a weekly death benefit from an employer is should be granted two years’ worth of the weekly benefit upon remarriage, which is what the ALJ granted to Alice Shelton. However, the commission ruled that a remarriage benefit is only awarded when the payments to the spouse have been for a death benefit. Here, Alice Shelton was receiving an award of permanent and total disability benefits as the dependent of her spouse at the time of his injury. This is not a death benefit. Therefore, the periodic permanent and total disability benefits should continue for Alice Shelton’s life, but she is not entitled to a lump-sum remarriage award.