Though kids are legally considered adults when they turn 18, with college costing an arm and a limb, the job market being difficult, and more kids turning to grad school, a fair amount of those 18+ year-olds are not financially stable. Many still rely on their parents for financial support. In the eyes of the Alabama Supreme Court, those “adult children” cannot collect death benefits if their parent dies on the job.
Donna Banks, a young mother and college student, relied on payments from her father to support her through school and for her child and his grandchild. When her father was murdered by a coworker at Premier Service Company, Donna was 22. She filed a case against Premier seeking benefits.
The court found that, since she was over 18 and was not physically or mentally handicapped she was not considered a partial dependent and could not collect death benefits. Her mother, Catalina Banks, was still able to collect compensation as a widow. Donna tried to cite the case of Goodloe v. LaRoche Industries, Inc. which discussed the fate of benefits for a man who had divorced his wife three weeks before he died on the job. In that case, his 18 year old son received benefits because the son was not yet at the age of majority (in Alabama it’s 19 years old) at the time of Goodloe’s death and so he received benefits for the time he should have been partially dependent on his father. The Premier lawyers said that case was an anomaly and came back with Jimmy Stein Motor Lines, Inc. v. Griffin, in which a worker with three children had died on the job. Two of them were over 18 and in college, and the court decided the two that were in school did not merit death benefits.
In court documents it was mentioned that they might have found a way for the grandchild to receive benefits, but as the grandchild wasn’t a part of the lawsuit they did not order any compensation for him. I am sure that anybody close to a worker who dies has their world turned upside down, but if you rely on that person financially it can be made even more difficult when you don’t receive death benefits. This could be a situation we see more and more as more young adults are not working and are staying in school.