Iowa: Court Approves “Uneven” Split of Death Benefits Between American and Honduran Dependents of Deceased Undocumented Worker

The Court of Appeals of Iowa, in Carter v. Alter Trading Corp., 2012 Iowa App. LEXIS 879 (Oct. 17, 2012), applying the state’s “equitable” apportionment of workers’ compensation death benefits principles found in Iowa Code § 85.43, recently held that a trial court did not err when it affirmed a commissioner’s decision that had apportioned death benefits between the deceased employee’s dependents, some of whom lived in Honduras, and others, who resided in Iowa. The court reasoned that “equitable” did not necessarily mean “equal.” The commissioner, therefore, appropriately considered that it took less, in terms of economic resources, to live in Honduras than in the United States. The commissioner also considered the fact that a life insurance policy was payable to the deceased employee’s spouse, who lived in Honduras, while a child fathered by the deceased employee–an undocumented worker–was an American citizen and lived in the United States.

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