CA Court Denies Workers' Comp to Estate

November 29, 2006 ( - California's 2nd Appellate District Court has determined that a state workers' compensation statute requiring employers to pay a $250,000 benefit to the estate of an employee who dies leaving no dependents is unconstitutional.

In its opinion , the appellate court said the constitution required an amendment to the state’s constitution in order to include estates as beneficiaries for workers’ compensation benefits. According to the opinion, the California Supreme Court ruled previously that the Legislature may not expand the classes of beneficiaries entitled to workers’ compensation benefits beyond the list of beneficiaries identified in the California Constitution.

In addition, the 2 nd Appellate District said “awarding workers’ compensation death benefits to an estate conflicts with the underlying policy of the workers’ compensation scheme, which is to provide financial support to a worker and a worker’s dependents when the worker suffers job-related injury or death.”

In ruling the statute was unconstitutional, the court annulled the award previously approved by a workers’ compensation judge to a former Six Flags, Inc. hostess operator who was struck by an amusement park ride and killed.