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Ruling barring death benefits to widow overturned


The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday reversed a lower court decision that had barred death benefits to the widow of a university worker.

The high court, ruling in McAuley v. North Carolina A&T State University, said the North Carolina Court of Appeals erred in upholding the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s determination that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter because the widow filed an untimely claim for death benefits.  

Steven McAuley suffered a back injury in 2015 while working for North Carolina A&T University. He filed a workers compensation claim but died 10 days later.

His widow, Angela McAuley, sought death benefits in January 2018, but the Industrial Commission determined it lacked jurisdiction since the claim was not filed within two years after Mr. McAuley’s death.  

The Industrial Commission said a dependent’s death benefits claim differs from an employee’s workers compensation claim.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the commission.

In overturning the lower court ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court said that when legislators amended state law they did so with a “clear intent that a separate claim for death benefits is not required and that an employee’s filing of a claim within two years after an accident satisfies any condition precedent to the Industrial Commission acquiring jurisdiction with regard to a subsequent claim for death benefits.”

The justices remanded the case to the Court of Appeals.