Home > Death Case, Defenses > On Family Living Arrangements and Dependency

On Family Living Arrangements and Dependency

What is the formula to determine if parents or siblings are dependents?  Under Labor Code section 3501, minors and incapacitated adults are presumed dependent on a deceased parent, and a spouse earning less than $30,000 in the twelve months before the death is presumed a dependent as well.  In all other cases, Labor Code section 3502 allows a factual determination to be made as to who and to what extent a person is a deceased worker’s dependent.

The recent panel decision of Guadalupe Ayon (Deceased) v. Cal Grain and Hay addressed this very issue, holding that a deceased worker must have contributed more to the household than his or her own expenses – any contribution amounting to less than this would only serve to make the deceased worker less dependent on that household.

In Ayon, a deceased worker’s family members, including his mother and sister, claimed dependent status and sought death benefits.  Their claim was supported and defended by the defendant-employer, eager to help them prove their case and more than willing to accept full liability for their various dependency claims.

Why was the defendant so willing to share a foxhole with the applicant?  Because there was another player on the field – the Death Without Dependents Unit.  DWD, drawing its statutory authority from Labor Code section 4706.5, made the claim that the workers’ family should be left in the cold, and that defendant should instead pay to DWD the statutory sum of $125,000.00.

Through deposition testimony, it was discovered that the deceased made only occasional contributions to the household, hardly amounting to the support he received from the common pool.  The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board relied on the case of Smith v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Bd. (Walker), which articulated the formula of weighing a deceased worker’s contributions against the costs of his own support to determine who was the dependent and who was the depended upon.

As the applicants failed, in this case, to carry their respective burdens regarding dependency, the DWD unit was awarded their long-awaited dead men’s shoes.

Proper discovery can help to limit the amount of dependents to those actually dependent upon a deceased worker.  Your ever-helpful blogger humbly suggests that you keep this case in mind when next you deal with communal living arrangements or dependents of this sort, but, like the defendant in this case, weigh your liabilities against the DWD unit, which will no doubt be lurking near every funeral.

Categories: Death Case, Defenses
  1. William Anderson
    December 30, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Please send the citation to the Ayon case, or alternatively send a PDF copy of it.

  1. February 10, 2012 at 8:45 am
  2. April 16, 2012 at 8:06 am

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