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Bill seeks to disinter workers' comp ruling.

The estates of New Hampshire workers without dependents who are kilted on the job could receive more than the $5,000 toward burial expenses they currently receive if a proposed bill becomes law.


State Rep. Paul McEachern, D-Portsmouth, is sponsoring a bill that would pay the decedent's estate $25,000 in addition to the burial fee. The bill also would allow the estate to decline the $25,000 and sue the employer for wrongful death up to $50,000.

Workers' compensation for employees without dependents has been an ongoing issue. A 1981 New Hampshire Supreme Court case, Park v. Rockwell, found the original $1200 payout allowed under previous workers' compensation law was unconstitutional and ruled the estate could sue for up to $50,000.

But a 2008 case, Alonzi v. Northeast Generation Services, resulted in a decision that overturned the Park case, concluding that the $5.000 then called for in state law for burial expenses was all the decedent's estate could claim.

McEachern said his goat with the bill is "to basically overrule the Supreme Court's overrule of the prior decision."

McEachern said if a person is killed through the negligence of his or her employer, then there should be a benefit to the estate. For example, he said, if a 17-year-old without dependents were killed at work, his or her parents could sue the employer.

If passed, the bill will probably not have a large impact on employers in the state. For a state with 1.3 million residents, there were only 14 workplace fatalities in Hew Hampshire in 2007. And, said McEachern. "they all might have had dependents."

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Author:Callahan, Kathleen
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:Jan 16, 2009
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