Foreign Nationals Can Be Dependents for TN Workers' Comp Benefits

January 22, 2007 ( - The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that foreign nationals who are not residents of Tennessee can be considered dependents under the state's workers' compensation laws.

The ruling means that nonresident foreign nationals can get death benefits if a family member is killed at work, according to the decision.

The state’s high court ruled that the parents of Mexican national Jaime Humberto Diaz Pedraza, who fell and died in 2002 while working for Coop Construction Co., are entitled to the same workers’ comp treatment under the statute as resident U.S. citizens.

The employee’s parents, Juana Martinez Pedraza and Albino Baez Diaz, residents and citizens of Mexico, sought U.S. legal assistance to secure any workers’ compensation benefits due them after their son’s death. According to depositions by both parents, their son had from late 1999 until the month before his death wired money monthly to them to cover the family’s expenses.

The parents argued that their son’s contributions demonstrated that they were “wholly dependent” on his income and thus his “actual dependents” under Tennessee law.

The trial court found that the employee did send money to his parents on a regular basis, that they had no means of support other than his income, and that both parents were considered “wholly supported” by their son’s income and thus “actual dependents” under state law.

The Supreme Court disagreed, classifying the parents as “partial dependents” because the employee’s father was working at the time of his son’s death.

The case was remanded to the lower court to determine the amount of benefits.

The court decision is here .