Steven Lee Enterprises v. Varney
Kentucky Supreme Court
36 S.W.3d 391 (2000)
In 1988, Danny Varney applied for and received workers’-compensation benefits after becoming disabled due to an occupational lung disease. Danny’s benefits application identified Ardena Varney as his wife. Danny subsequently divorced Ardena and entered a relationship with Tressa Brewster Varney (plaintiff). Tressa gave birth to Samantha Varney (plaintiff) in December of 1993. Danny and Tressa were married in 1994 and divorced in 1995. In 1996, Danny died from his lung disease. In January of 1997, Tressa sought to obtain workers’-compensation death benefits for Samantha as Danny’s minor child. An administrative-law judge and the Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Board dismissed Samantha’s claim because Kentucky’s workers’-compensation statute provided that in cases involving death from occupational disease, after-born children (i.e., children born after the onset of the deceased worker’s disability) could recover death benefits only if the children were born of a marriage in existence when the deceased worker’s disability began. On appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed. The court held that the Kentucky statute violated the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Kentucky Constitutions because the statutory requirement that after-born children must be born of a marriage existing at the beginning of the disability to receive benefits discriminated against illegitimate after-born children like Samantha.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Cooper, J.)
Dissent (Stumbo, J.)
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