39-71-721, MCA

Hegg v. Montana State Fund [10/10/16] 2016 MTWCC 14 Section 39-71-721(2), MCA, is not ambiguous simply because it sets a “minimum” weekly compensation benefit rate and then has a clause under which the rate can be less than the “minimum.”  Statutes setting forth how to calculate benefit rates are frequently written as rules of law with exceptions; where both can be given effect, there is no ambiguity.

Hegg v. Montana State Fund [10/10/16] 2016 MTWCC 14 Resort to legislative history is unnecessary as the Legislature's intent is clear from the plain language of § 39-71-721(2), MCA: the “minimum” weekly compensation benefit rate applies when 66 2/3% of the decedent's wage is less than 50% of the state's average weekly wage unless the decedent's actual wages were less than 50% of the state's average weekly wage, in which case the rate is the decedent's actual wages.

[1999] Van Vleet v. Montana Assoc. of Counties Workers' Comp. Trust [2/19/04] 2004 MTWCC 8 Death benefits are payable to statutory beneficiaries and not to the estate of the deceased worker. Accordingly, the personal representative of the estate of the deceased worker has no standing to maintain a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Reversed on other grounds in Van Vleet v. Montana Association of Counties Workers' Compensation Trust, 2004 MT 367 (No. 04-206)

[1991] Re: Colon [12/12/02] 2002 MTWCC 63 While the statute governing death benefits provides for payment of a minor child's share to the surviving parent, by expressly providing benefits for the child the statute contemplates that the benefits will be applied to benefit the child, hence where the parent provides no support to the child the benefits may be redirected to the child and the child's guardian. (Construing sections 39-71-721, -723 and -116(3), MCA (1991).)
[1989] (VanHorn) Killion v. State Fund [4/22/99] 1999 MTWCC 30 Section 39-71-721(5), MCA, which provides that workers' compensation benefits to a surviving spouse terminate upon remarriage, does not violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, equal protection, or privacy. The statute is also not overriden by section 49-2-308(1), MCA, which prohibits the State or its subdivisions from discriminating on the basis of marital status.

[1985] W.R. Grace & Co. and Transportation Ins. Co. v. Riley [3/23/98] 1998 MTWCC 26 Under section 39-72-701, MCA (1985), previously interpreted by this Court in Manweiler v. The Travelers Ins. Co. [6/6/96] 1996 MTWCC 41 (WCC No. 9511-7445), the amount and duration of death benefits under the Occupational Disease Act is governed by the death benefits provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act, including section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), which states that where an injured or diseased worker subsequently dies, the beneficiary "is entitled to the same compensation as though the death occurred immediately following the injury, but the period during which the death benefits is paid shall be reduced by the period during or for which compensation was paid for the injury." As previously held in Manweiler, the insurer is entitled to a credit for any portion of settlement monies paid to decedent which are attributable to periods of time after decedent's death.

[1983] Blowers v. Montana Insurance Guaranty Association [4/25/97] 1997 MTWCC 24 Under section 39-71-721(5), MCA (1983), death benefits must be paid to a widow or widower for life or until remarriage, and in the event of remarriage, two years of benefits must be paid in a lump sum. In case where widow requested lump sum of what would amount to ten years of benefits, WCC held that lump sum, if otherwise appropriate, was not necessarily limited to two years of benefits, though the possibility that claimant might remarry is a significant factor that would be taken into consideration when determining if an advance of more than two years' benefits was justified.

[1985] Blowers v. Montana Ins. Guaranty Association [10/15/96] 1996 MTWCC 64 While section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), provides that a lump sum of two years of benefits must be paid to a widow who remarries, with no further benefit entitlement, that section does not limit the conversion of benefits corresponding to more than two years in a situation where remarriage has not occurred. Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985), provides that "biweekly benefits . . . may be converted, in whole or in part, into a lump-sum payment." However, in considering the widow's request for an order that benefits be converted, the Court will consider the rule of section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), and the possibility of remarriage.

[1983] Kimery v. State Compensation Ins. Fund [12/11/95] 1995 MTWCC 104 Widow whose death benefits were terminated upon her remarriage moved for summary judgment on her claim to reinstate benefits, arguing that District Courtís order of annulment of her remarriage ab initio was binding on State Fund. WCC denied motion, holding that District Courtís order was not binding on State Fund where it was not party to that proceeding.