ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District has upheld a finding from the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission that denied successor workers' compensation benefits to a surviving spouse.
In a ruling filed May 16, the court held that because a final award of permanent total disability benefits made to injured worker Robert Edwards in 2009 from the state's Second Injury Fund (SIF) "contains no finding that Claimant was Employee's wife or his dependent," the commission was without jurisdiction to address Beverly Edwards' claim for benefits.
Beverly Edwards notified the commission of her husband's September 2014 death more than a year later in October 2015 by filing a "Suggestion of Death and Motion for Substitution," according to background information in the ruling.
Her motion requested that she be substituted for Robert Edwards in receiving benefits pursuant to a ruling in Schoemehl v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri. A later motion for increase filed in February 2016 sought "Schoemehl" benefits as an employee entitled to them due to work related injuries and subsequent death from unrelated causes.
Ultimately, the commission denied the motion, relying on court precedent in Carter v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri. It found that Beverly Edwards' right to successor benefits under Schoemehl was extinguished on May 11, 2009, "when the April 22, 2009 award (for Robert Edwards) became final because the award did not contain a determination that Claimant was Employee’s dependent at the time of his injury."
A three-judge panel that included Judges Sherri Sullivan, Roy Richter and Colleen Dolan found in favor of the commission, holding that Beverly Edwards presented no compelling argument "as to why this Court should depart from the precedent addressing the issue."
"Because the final award in this case did not establish Claimant’s dependency status, the Commission was without jurisdiction to address her claim for successor benefits," Sullivan wrote.