Young v. Air Masters Mechanical Inc, (Mississippi 2020)
If a parent’s rights to a child have been terminated, that child is not considered a dependent under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The decedent died in the course of his work. He left no survivors. The mother petitioned the Commission to pay child support arrears from the decedent’s workers’ compensation death benefits. The decedent was the biological father of her children but had relinquished his parental rights. At the time of the relinquishment, he owed back support, and the mother had a judgment for the amount. The case made its way to the Supreme Court, where the Court found that the children no longer met the definition of a dependent. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, death benefits are payable to specific people set out in statute: a surviving spouse, child or children, or other dependent(s). The termination of parental rights meant the children were no longer dependent and not entitled to benefits. He had no other dependents, so other than the funeral expenses, no death benefits were payable. Since there were no death benefits payable, there were no benefits to which the lien could attach. The Supreme Court found the statute placing a lien for unpaid support on workers’ compensation benefits payable to an employee didn’t apply. Death benefits aren’t payable to the employee directly, so the statute wouldn’t apply.