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WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA AND MELRON INDUSTRIES v. BETTY J. WORLEY (02/17/76)

decided: February 17, 1976.

WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA AND MELRON INDUSTRIES, INC.
v.
BETTY J. WORLEY, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Betty J. Worley, w/o Carl A. v. Melron Industries, Inc., No. A-68897.

COUNSEL

Patricia L. Kotchek, with her Richard P. Nuffort, and Geisenberger, Zimmerman, Pfannebecker & Gibbel, for appellant.

W. Jeffrey Sidebottom, with him Barley, Snyder, Cooper & Mueller, and James N. Diefenderfer, for appellees.

Judges Crumlish, Jr., Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Rogers.

Author: Rogers

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 358]

The husband of the appellant, Betty J. Worley, was killed in a work-related accident and she was awarded workmen's compensation death benefits for herself and on behalf of her two children by Worley on November 5, 1971.*fn1

In October 1971, Lester Dull, a man married to another, took up residence with the appellant and her children in the appellant's mobile home. Mrs. Worley and Dull cohabited and a child was born to them in March 1973. From time to time each provided the other with financial support.

In August 1973, the late Mr. Worley's employer filed a petition to terminate the workmen's compensation benefits

[ 23 Pa. Commw. Page 359]

    it was required to pay to Mrs. Worley because she was living with Dull "in meretricious relationship and not married." Section 307 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. ยง 562, after directing the payment of benefits to widows, widowers and other dependents, and for the cessation of benefits to dependents who should remarry, provides:

"Provided, however, That if, upon investigation and hearing, it shall be ascertained that the widow or widower is living with a man or woman, as the case may be, in meretricious relationship and not married, or the widow living a life of prostitution, the board may order the termination of compensation payable to such widow or widower. If the compensation payable under this section to any person shall, for any cause, cease, the compensation to the remaining persons entitled thereunder shall thereafter be the same as would have been payable to them had they been the only persons entitled to compensation at the time of the death of the deceased."

A referee, after hearing, denied the prayer of the petition, concluding on the basis of an exploration of the Latin root of the word meretricious that the relationship of Mrs. Worley and Dull was merely a "practical, pragmatic relationship in which claimant and Mr. Dull find themselves placed due to circumstances beyond their control," apparently because of Dull's marital status. The Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board disagreed with the referee, reversed his action and ordered that Mrs. Worley's compensation be suspended while she continued to live with Dull. We agree with the Board's determination and affirm.

The appellant urges upon us a definition of the word meretricious as used in Section 307 which would limit its application to instances where unmarried persons not only ...


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