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Settled workers comp claim doesn't bar survivor death benefits

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A Kentucky man's settlement of his workers compensation claim prior to his death doesn't bar his wife from seeking death benefits, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.

Stephen Baytos suffered a torn thoracic aorta in February 2006 while working for Charlotte, North Carolina-based Family Dollar Stores Inc., according to court records.

Before Mr. Baytos died in December 2009, he accepted a lump-sum payment from Family Dollar and agreed not to pursue any future claims, records show. However, his wife, Mamie Baytos, didn't sign the settlement, which did not include references to any future rights she might have.

In 2011, Ms. Baytos filed a motion to reopen her husband's claim and seek death benefits, records show.

An administrative law judge ruled in February 2014 that Mr. Baytos died as a result of his work-related injury and awarded Ms. Baytos death benefits, according to records.

Family Dollar appealed to the Kentucky Workers' Compensation Board, which reversed the judge's order in June 2014, records show. The board found that the settlement agreement between Mr. Baytos and Family Dollar barred Ms. Baytos from receiving death benefits.

On Friday, however, the Kentucky Court of Appeals vacated the order of the board and remanded the case for further proceedings, according to records.

Surviving spouses are eligible to receive death benefits if the injured worker dies within four years of a work-related injury, the court of appeals ruled. The law “makes no mention of prior agreements reached between the employer and the injured employee.”