Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Using Marriage as Deciding Factor for Death Benefits Ruled Unconstitutional in Alaska

GavelAfter the tragic death of Kerry Fadely, who was murdered while working a shift as a manager at Millennium Hotel, her same-sex partner Deborah Harris filed for workers compensation death benefits. Harris’s claim was denied because she wasn’t married to Fadely, which was based on the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board's interpretation of “widow” in the statute. The couple had been together for over ten years and shared responsibility for bills and raising their children.

In Harris v. Millennium Hotel, the Alaska Supreme Court overruled the denial of the death benefits. The court reasoned that using marriage as the test for awarding the death benefits was a violation of equal protection, and the case was remanded.

See Stephanie Goldberg, Same-Sex Partner of Murdered Woman Due Comp Death Benefits: Alaska High Court, Business Insurance, July 29, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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