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WJAC v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (01/03/79)

decided: January 3, 1979.

WJAC, INC. AND UNITED STATES FIDELITY & GUARANTY COMPANY, INSURANCE CARRIER, PETITIONERS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND EDWARD & MARGARET VERPRAUSKUS, PARENTS OF JOHN, DECEASED, RESPONDENTS



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of John Verprauskus, Deceased; Edward and Margaret, Parents v. WJAC, Inc., No. A-73370.

COUNSEL

Raymond F. Keisling, with him Will & Keisling, for petitioners.

Patrick A. Gleason, with him Gleason, DiFrancesco, Shahade & Markovitz, for respondents.

Judges Wilkinson, Jr., Blatt and MacPhail, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 489]

WJAC, Inc. (employer) and its insurer, United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, appeal to us from a decision of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's award of death benefits to the surviving parents of John Verprauskus (decedent).

The Board and referee found that the decedent was killed in a job-related accident and this is not disputed in the appeal. The sole issue for our consideration is whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the finding that the decedent's parents (claimants) were partially dependent upon him for support.

At a hearing before the referee, the claimants testified that the decedent lived at home and that, although he did not pay room or board, he purchased approximately $10.00 worth of groceries every week and gave them about $20.00 per month for general expenses. He had also purchased some building materials for their home and contributed $100.00 towards the down payment for siding for the family house. In addition, he had worked around the house making various improvements and repairs to the house, and maintaining the family automobile. The claimants testified

[ 39 Pa. Commw. Page 490]

    that, for the 12-month period prior to the decedent's death, their expenses had amounted to $14,064.00 while their combined income amounted to only $12,501.99, thus arguing that they needed the decedent's contributions. The employer contends, however, that the decedent's contributions amounted only to room and board, with him receiving more benefit from the arrangement than the claimants, and that the Board improperly considered certain expenditures as part of the expenses of the parents during the 12-month period prior to the accident.

The relevant test of dependency was stated by this Court in Leipziger v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 12 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 417, 420, 315 A.2d 883, 885 (1974):

The test of dependency is whether or not the child's earnings were needed to provide the parents with some of the ordinary necessities of life suitable for persons in their class and position, and that the parents were, consequently, dependent to some extent upon the child at the time of the accident causing his death. If the contribution of the deceased child were necessary to maintain the parents in an established, reasonable standard of living, this existing standard must be considered in determining the necessity for such contribution from the child. (Citations omitted.)

Applying the above test here, we believe that the evidence is insufficient to support a finding of partial dependency, the facts of this case being well within our previously decided cases in which we held that the evidence did not support such a finding. For example, in Bill Mattern Paving v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 32 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 520, 379 A.2d ...


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