The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the widower of a woman who died from a permanent work-related injury was entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits in the event of death even though the couple was separated at the time of the death.
In a Friday ruling, the court ruled that Roger Blasdell was entitled to death compensation after Heather Blasdell died of an overdose of medication she was taking after the injury.
The couple decided to live separately more than two years into their marriage for employment reasons, although they never divorced and remained financially supportive of each other.
After the couple decided to live separately, Blasdell began seeing another woman, but he also paid Blasdell̵7;s funeral expenses after her death in September 2016.
Blasdell’s employer, Linhaven Inc., and its insurer, Accident Fund National Insurance Co./United Heartland, argued that Blasdell was barred from receiving death benefits under a section of Iowa law that bars a spouse from receiving compensatory benefits in cases where a surviving spouse “intentionally abandoned” the deceased.
A commissioner agreed that Blasdell was not entitled to benefits. A district court reversed the decision and an appeals court agreed.
The Supreme Court said both lower courts correctly determined that Mr. Blasdell did not abandon his wife and that the decision to live separately was made jointly and for financial reasons.
The separation should not have prevented Mr Blasdell from collecting death benefits, the court said.