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FREDERIC OKNEFSKI v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (12/29/81)

decided: December 29, 1981.

FREDERIC OKNEFSKI, WIDOWER AND ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CINDY OKNEFSKI, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, WORKMEN'S COMPENSATION APPEAL BOARD AND LOUISIANA PACIFIC CORP., RESPONDENTS. COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, LEROY S. ZIMMERMAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, INTERVENOR



Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board in case of Cindy Oknefski, deceased; Frederic Oknefski, widower v. Louisiana Pacific Corporation, No. A-79458.

COUNSEL

David A. Whitney, Cartwright, Fernan & Whitney, for petitioner.

Joseph F. Grochmal, Fried, Kane, Waters & Zuschlag, for respondent, Louisiana Pacific Corp.

Michael L. Harvey, Deputy Attorney General, with him Allen C. Warshaw and Mary Ellen Krober, Deputy Attorneys General, for intervenor.

Judges Mencer, Williams, Jr. and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 63 Pa. Commw. Page 452]

Petitioner-widower appeals from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) which affirmed a referee's decision denying Petitioner-widower death benefits pursuant to Section 307 of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act (Act), Act of June 2, 1915, P.L. 736, as amended, 77 P.S. ยง 562.

The facts as found by the referee, and affirmed by the Board, are not in dispute. Petitioner's wife died directly as the result of a work-related incident in the course of her employment. Until the time of her demise, Petitioner's wife was married to and living with Petitioner.

The singular issue on appeal before this Court is whether Section 307 of the Act violates the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions*fn1 because its eligibility criteria for widowers seeking benefits upon the death of their wives differ from its eligibility criteria for widows seeking benefits upon the death of their husbands.

Section 307 states in pertinent part:

No compensation shall be payable under this section to a widow, unless she was living with her deceased husband at the time of his death, or was then actually dependent upon him and receiving from him a substantial portion of her support. No compensation shall be payable under this section to a widower, unless he be incapable of self-support at the time of his wife's death and be at such time dependent upon her for support. (Emphasis added.)

"[I]n considering the equal protection clause we evaluate the disparity of treatment by the state between classes of ...


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