You be the Judge: The Case of the Kid and the Cash | Reader's Digest

You be the Judge: The Case of the Kid and the Cash

An unmarried, absent father dies at work. Does his company have to pay to support his child?

By Vicki Glembocki
Also published in Reader's Digest Magazine May 2014

dollar signNoma Bar for Reader’s Digest

Jessica Douglas gave birth to a baby girl named Jamie on April 22, 1998. Soon after, the pair moved in with Douglas’s boyfriend, Scott Moore, whom Douglas had been dating for some time. Though they all lived together in Moore’s Michigan home on and off for several months, Moore wasn’t entirely certain that he was Jamie’s father. In fact, he filed a complaint to determine the child’s paternity. Results from the DNA test came back at the beginning of September and proved that Moore was indeed Jamie’s dad. By then, however, Douglas and little Jamie had moved out. Though Moore no longer supported them financially, he was still, according to Douglas, 
“a father to [Jamie].”

Less than a month after he received the paternity results, Moore was working a job at an apartment complex for his employer, Prestige 
Painting. A gust of wind caused him to lose control of an aluminum 
extension ladder he was carrying, and the ladder touched an overhead power line. Moore was electrocuted. He died shortly after.

On behalf of her daughter, Douglas filed a petition to receive death 
benefits from Prestige Painting. In September 2002, a Workers’ Compensation Board magistrate ruled that Jamie was eligible for 
benefits, since, according to the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act, a child under the age of 16—whether legitimate or illegitimate, whether living with the deceased employee or not—“shall be conclusively presumed to be wholly dependent for support.” The magistrate awarded Douglas 500 weeks of benefits at $252.33 a week.

“The order was clearly in the best interest of the child,” says Douglas’s attorney, Allen Wall.

But within days, Prestige Painting appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Commission (WCAC). Attorney Robert W. Macy called the magistrate’s decision a “legal error” and cited a different statute in the same Compensation Act, which stated that a child had to be “living with” the employee at the time of death to be considered an eligible dependent.

Should Prestige Painting be required to pay death benefits to Scott Moore’s daughter even though the child wasn’t living with him when he died on the job? You be the judge.

Next: The Verdict

  • Your Comments

    • Xiomy

      I disagree. I think Jamie deserved a better verdict. A verdict that would concentrate in the best interest of the child.

    • Just-the-facts

      1. The statutes should be clear. One or the other, so that personal judgements is not a factor at all.
      2. It is not job of Prestige Painting to judge the quality of a mother or father- judging whether a parent deserves child support for a legitimate loss falls no where under the spectrum of painting.
      3. A child deserves support for the job related loss of a parent regardless of that parents presence or non-presence in the child life. Loss is loss, period.
      Finally, good luck mom and I wish you the best in the future! I have a “father-less” 11 year old and it’s not easy!

    • Concerned mom of 2

      Is anyone else truly disturbed that the child was awarded “500 weeks” of benefits? That equates to less than 10 years of care for a child that was only a few months old at the time. I would hardly say that was even close to making sure the girl was “being taken care of” by Prestige. Sad story all the way around.

    • Lise

      Of Course Workers Comp Insurance company should pay that child. He was taking care of the child even though they did not live together. Sick and tired of Insurance companies collecting all this income and fighting every step of the way to not pay out thier claims. they should NEVER have been allowed to overrule a JUDGE’s decision for that child

    • jojowa

      what about social security? the dna test should have gotten you a hearing on that.

    • BingJC

      The argument in this discussion is pointless. The ire should be directed toward the elected officials that enacted the laws in question. This is yet another example of elected officials who feel that they do not have the responsibility to do the job that they were elected to do, which is to understand the laws rules and regulations they are voting on before they vote on them. The arrogance of elected officials who declare that a something must be enacted into law before we can understand what is in it is beyond comprehension and apparently it is not limited to members of congress.