This case, Jim Plunkett, Inc. v. Michael Ard (deceased), WD 79210, September
13, 2016, involved a bitter struggle between the deceased employee’s putative wife
and his personal representative (deceased’s father) over the permanent partial
disability (PPD) benefits to which Ard would have been entitled but for his
untimely death due to an unrelated cause (murder) and an issue over the extent
of the employer’s (and insurer’s) obligation to the winner.
Putting aside the issues raised by the
employer and insurer over whether the PPD award was supported, and whether the
Commission’s fact findings were sufficient, the employer also asserted that the
Commission erred in awarding the full 260 weeks of compensation to the personal
representative even though Ard died only 141 weeks after MMI.
It has long been accepted that if an employee
dies from unrelated causes after MMI, that the dependents can recover both
accrued and un-accrued compensation but it was thought that if no dependents
exist, that the employee’s personal representative or estate can only collect
the weeks of benefits which have accrued up to the date of the death (unpaid
TTD or accrued PPD). However, in the absence of dependents, the accrued
disability benefits were thought to be treated like a money debt owed to the
employee’s estate and the measure of that obligation was the number of weeks of
PPD which had accrued up to the date of death. After all, these are weekly
benefits even though PPD is usually paid in a lump sum either in settlement or
under an award.
The Court of Appeals made short work of the
historical approach in holding that the PPD benefits accrue in their entirety
as soon as the employee reaches MMI since at that moment, the PPD benefits “. .
. come into existence as a legally enforceable claim”, and despite the language
of Sec. 287.230.2 RSMo., which seems to make a distinction between accrued and
un-accrued benefits. However, in arriving at their decision, the Court cited an
earlier case for the operative definition of “accrued” although that case
involved a dependent not the employee’s estate or personal representative.
Thus, in that earlier case there was no need for that court to address the
accrued and un-accrued compensation distinction.
Questions or Comments?: Contact Jim Kennedy
at 314-552-4020 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright: Evans & Dixon. L.L.C., 2016