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Nonresident dependents get death benefits: Court


NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Nonresident foreign nationals can be considered dependents under Tennessee's workers compensation laws and can therefore receive death benefits if a family member is killed at work, said the Tennessee Supreme Court in a unanimous decision.

Thursday's decision in George R. Fusner Jr., as designated representative of the Mexican Consulate vs. Coop Construction Co. L.L.C., et al., concerned Jaime Humberto Diaz Pedraza, a Mexican national who fell to his death at a Nashville construction site on Oct. 3, 2002. An attorney appointed by the Mexican consulate is representing Mr. Pedraza's parents, who live in Mexico, in the case.

The parents are entitled to benefits, said the court. "Our General Assembly could not have more clearly expressed its policy determination that nonresident foreign nationals who qualify as dependents must receive the same treatment under the statute as resident United States citizens," said the court in its decision, which upheld a lower court's ruling.

"Therefore, we conclude that the plain language" of the statute "permits nonresident foreign nationals to receive benefits as 'dependents'...when they meet the statutory definitions of dependency."

The Supreme Court did reverse the lower court's decision, though, in concluding that Mr. Pedraza's parents were "partial dependents" rather than "actual" or total dependents because his father had been working at the time of his son's death. The case was remanded to the lower court to determine the amount of benefits.