The Tale of the Fraudulent Concubine

An Employee of D&D Drilling was purportedly electrocuted during the course and scope of his employment.  A claim for death benefits was filed by a woman who identified herself as the “live-in concubine” of the deceased employee.  In order to establish her entitlement to death benefits, the claimant must show that she was financially dependent upon the deceased employee.

At her deposition, she testified that while she was pregnant with the child of another man, she had no source of financial support other than from the deceased employee.  However, further investigation revealed that the claimant signed an agreement with a law firm to place her unborn child for adoption.  During the term of her pregnancy, the law firm paid the claimant living expenses, including rent, utilities, vehicle insurance, and groceries, each month.

Employer filed a Motion for Summary Judgment praying that the claimant’s claim for benefits be dismissed on the grounds that she violated the fraud provisions of the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act, thereby forfeiting her entitlement to any benefits.  The workers’ compensation judge granted the motion and dismissed the claimant’s claim with prejudice, and the claimant appealed.

The claimant urged the appellate court to reverse the judgment on the grounds that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the amount of money paid.  The court, however, dismissed this argument, finding that the amount of money paid was not a genuine issue that would preclude summary judgment.  Rather, the issue was the claimant’s failure to disclose that she received any additional support at all.  The court noted that the claimant was specifically asked numerous times during her deposition whether she had any sources of financial support other than the deceased employee, and that on each of these occasions, she failed to disclose information about the payments made by the law firm in conjunction with the adoption process.  Because the claimant failed to introduce any evidence to refute the employer’s claims of fraud, the order granting summary judgment to the employer was affirmed.

Heathcoate v. D & D Drilling and Exploration, Inc.