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Serrano v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Bd.

Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania

June 12, 2014

Bret Cooney (deceased) - Amanda Serrano, Petitioner
v.
Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Patterson UTI, Inc.), Respondent

Argued April 22, 2014

Appealed from No. A12-0527. State Agency: Workers' Compensation Appeal Board.

Michael A. Murphy, Pittsburgh, for petitioner.

Michael T. Della Vecchia, Pittsburgh, for respondent Patterson UTI, Inc.

BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE ANNE E. COVEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROCHELLE S. FRIEDMAN, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 426

ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge

In this appeal, Amanda Serrano (Claimant) petitions for review of an order of the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming a Workers' Compensation Judge's (WCJ) denial of her fatal claim petition seeking death benefits as a widow under Section 307(3) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act).[1] The WCJ determined Claimant failed to establish a valid common-law marriage to Bret Cooney (Decedent). Claimant asserted she celebrated a common-law marriage in 2003 in Wyoming, a state that does not recognize common-law marriage. In addition,

Page 427

Claimant and Decedent did not cohabit in Pennsylvania until June 2009, more than four years after Pennsylvania legislatively abolished common-law marriage. Nevertheless, relying primarily on our decision in Costello v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Board (Kinsley Construction, Inc.), 916 A.2d 1242 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2007), Claimant contends the Board and the WCJ erred in finding her 2003 common-law marriage invalid despite the language in Section 1103 of the Marriage Law, 23 Pa. C.S. § 1103, which protected " otherwise lawful" common-law marriages contracted on or before January 1, 2005. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. Background

A. Decedent's Death; NCP

In January 2011, Decedent sustained a traumatic brain injury, as a result of a drilling rig accident, while working for Patterson UTI, Inc. (Employer). Decedent died six days after the injury. Employer accepted liability for the injury through a notice of temporary ...


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