A Pasadena woman should not have continued to collect weekly death benefits two years after her husband died because she had started to earn a living and was no longer dependent on the compensation, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said yesterday.
The court reversed a 1996 order by the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that the three employers of the late Chester W. Martin continue paying his wife weekly death benefits.
Patricia Martin had claimed in 1994 that she was still dependent on the money after receiving $45,000 because she was only earning a small fraction of her husband's income.
Chester Martin was killed in January 1992 on the way back to Maryland from a business trip to New York when a helicopter he was piloting crashed.
The self-made businessman was the top executive at three beverage distribution companies, Beverage Capital Corp., Sun Dun Inc., and Great Distribution and Warehousing Inc.
He earned $187,240 the year before he died, and his wife earned $38,000 a year to stay at home in an agreement she had made with her husband to quit her job as a receptionist for Giant Food.
After the crash, the companies paid her $146,172, the rest of her husband's salary for 1992, but not the $38,000 she had received in previous years, according to court briefs.
In 1994, the three companies refused to pay anything more than $45,000 in state ordered death benefits, though Patricia Martin claimed she was due more. In August 1995, the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission agreed with her and ordered the companies to continue making weekly payments. A circuit court judge upheld that ruling in 1996.
While they appealed, the companies have continued to pay Patricia Martin $540 a week, bringing her total compensation to more than $161,000 in death benefits, according to W. John Vernon, a lawyer for Great Distribution and Warehousing.
He said the companies would try to get that money back if Patricia Martin wins any money in lawsuits stemming from the helicopter crash, Vernon said.
Because Patricia Martin started working as a broker for Canada Dry, the Court of Special Appeals said she was no longer fully dependent on the weekly death benefits.
Pub Date: 2/26/98