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

    • A Friend

      Today marks 16 years Scott has been gone. It’s a bit sobering to think about. He was the first person I lost that I cared about. He was a good man and well loved.

      Reading these comments is hard. Scott had his faults. So did Jessica. Neither one of them was the picture of stability or function and their on-and-off relationship certainly reflected that. They were very good at causing one another pain. Everyone commenting here would do well to reflect on that. Court documents provide a very one-dimensional view of what happened. It’s hardly sufficient to give any of you enough information to judge. Scott is not here to defend himself. Jessica has her past drug up once again. His daughter can read what you’re saying. Think about that. He loved his baby fiercely and it would be a pity if she were to start to believe otherwise.

      Someday, the whole lot of us, friends and family, are going to be sitting in heaven wondering why we couldn’t overlook more and be a source of healing in each other’s lives.

      Stacy, you are a woman who seeks God and strives to live a life that honors Him. Forgive words that cut and give love. 70 x’s 7

      Jessica, you have had so much pain in your life. I’m sorry this has caused you more. I pray that you will one day fully know God’s complete and total love.

      Jamie, you are all of Scott that’s left in this world. Know that there are people out there who love you and are praying for you that you don’t even know. Your life has had it’s share of troubles. But God molds us and shapes us and works all things for good.

      Every child grows up and sees the faults and humanity of their parents. We realize that they loved us fully, even though they were human and imperfect. Sorry yours are plastered on the internet.

      Scott, we miss you.

      And, finally, let’s give Jamie the blessing of loving all her family without feeling like she has to take sides.

    • Karma Tony, Karma

      Jamie deserves a better verdict and father. Thank God she didn’t have to live her whole life with a dead beat dad. I hope that Tony regrets what his company did and dies with regret and remorse in his heart.

    • the girl next door

      I am glad Jamie is “out growing” the Moore family. I always knew she would, that bunch of DNA shares are like a cancer.