Padilla v. Industrial Commission, 1

Decision Date15 May 1975
Docket NumberCA-IC,No. 1,1
Citation535 P.2d 634,24 Ariz.App. 42
PartiesMaria PADILLA, Petitioner, v. The INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION of Arizona, Respondent, Environmental Farms, Inc., Respondent Employer, State Compensation Fund, Respondent Carrier. 1136.
CourtArizona Court of Appeals

NELSON, Presiding Judge.

This appeal presents the following question: where both parents are employed, and pool their incomes to support their household and their children, and one parent is industrially injured and on total temporary disability status, is he or she entitled to the $10.00 per month dependency allowance provided by our Workmen's Compensation Statutes (A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2)?

Petitioner, Maria Padilla (Padilla), was injured on May 13, 1973. Respondent carrier accepted her claim for workmen's compensation benefits and determined her average monthly wage to be $393.28. Padilla thereafter protested the carrier's determination that she had no dependents.

Padilla was, at the time of the injury, married as she had been for sixteen years. There were three minor children of the marriage, all living at home with Padilla and her husband. Both parents were employed, with Padilla earning approximately $393.28 per month, and with her husband earning approximately $650.00 per month 'take home'. The pay checks on both Padilla and her husband were cashed and the money was applied to the general living expenses of the entire family.

On these stipulated facts the Industrial Commission, without hearing, issued its award finding that Padilla was not entitled to the $10.00 per month dependency allowance provided for in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2. The award was affirmed on review before the Commission, and Padilla sought review in this Court by Writ of Certiorari. We now set aside the award of the Industrial Commission.

Section 23--1045.A.2 of the Arizona Revised Statutes provides:

'2. If there are persons residing in the United States totally dependent for support upon the employee, compensation shall be paid as provided in this chapter with an additional allowance of ten dollars per month for such dependents during the period of disability. The additional allowance shall not be based upon a per capita number of dependents but shall reflect a total monthly benefit increase of exactly ten dollars. . . .'

Applying the 'plain meaning' rule of statutory construction, the hearing officer determined, with reference to the stipulated facts, that neither Padilla's husband nor their three minor children are Totally dependent upon her. Padilla assigns as error the Commission's determination that she has no dependents who are Totally dependent upon her.

Initially Padilla observes that the words 'totally dependent' are not defined in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2, and the only place where those words are defined is in A.R.S. § 23--1064.A which provides:

'A. The following persons are conclusively presumed to be totally dependent for support upon a deceased employee:

1. A wife upon a husband whom she has not voluntarily abandoned at the time of the injury.

2. A husband upon a wife whom he has not voluntarily abandoned at the time of the injury.

3. A natural, posthumous or adopted child under the age of eighteen years, or over that age if physically or mentally incapacitated from wage earning, upon the injured parent. Stepparents may be regarded as parents, if dependent, and a stepchild as a natural child if dependent.'

Padilla urges that when we determine 'total dependency' under A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 we must apply the conclusive presumption of A.R.S. § 23--1064.A. Otherwise, Padilla asserts, A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 would be an impractical statute to the extent that it could never be applied where a spouse or any dependent makes any contribution, regardless of the amount, to the family income.

Respondents counter Padilla's argument of presumption dependency by citing Bergstresser v. Industrial Commission, 13 Ariz.App. 91, 474 P.2d 450 (1970) for the propositions that this Court has already determined that A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 (as it existed prior to 1968) is unambiguous and that this Court will not impose burdens and liabilities which are not in the terms or spirit of the Workmen's Compensation Law. Acknowledging that respondents' reference to the Bergstresser case, supra, is accurate, we are nevertheless unable to see its applicability to the present case. In Bergstresser, supra, the claimant urged that A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 was ambiguous in its terms and an unconstitutional denial of equal protection in that it awarded no more compensation to an injured workman with several dependents than it did to an injured workman with a single dependent. The Bergstresser opinion does not discuss, nor did the decision turn on the meaning of 'totally dependent'.

Respondents also counter Padilla's argument of presumption of dependency on the basis that there is an ambiguity inherent in A.R.S. § 23--1064.A.3 which would be carried over to A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2. In essence A.R.S. § 23--1064.A.3 says that stepchildren and stepparents are conclusively presumed to be dependent if they are dependent. That issue is not now before us and does not functionally impair Padilla's reference to A.R.S. § 23--1064.A for purposes of defining 'totally dependent' in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2.

We are unaware of any rationale which justifies a conclusive presumption of total dependency in the event of a fatal industrial injury as opposed to an industrial injury which is totally disabling. Dependents suffer a great economic loss in either case. To this limited extent, Padilla's reference to A.R.S. § 23--1045.A has merit, and the statutes should be considered In pari materia on this point. Kasprowiz v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, 14 Ariz.App. 75, 480 P.2d 992, appeal after remand, 20 Ariz.App. 116, 510 P.2d 427 (1973); In re Stark's Estate, 52 Ariz. 416, 82 P.2d 894 (1938).

Padilla next urges that 'totally dependent' as used in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 should have a unitary connotation. More precisely, a dependent should be regarded as being Totally dependent on each working parent at the same time. This is the operative effect of the conclusive presumption in A.R.S. § 23--1064.A. In support of this contention, Padilla cites cases from other jurisdictions having a death benefit statute similar to A.R.S. § 23--1064.A. See: Bovee v. Robert Gage Coal Co., 332 Mich. 259, 50 N.W.2d 878 (1952); United States National Bank of Denver v. Industrial Commission, 128 Colo. 417, 262 P.2d 731 (1953); Utah Fuel Co. v. Industrial Commission of Utah, 67 Utah 25, 245 P. 381, 45 A.L.R. 882 (1926).

We must determine whether the term Totally dependent as it is used in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 means total dependence on the Family unit, i.e., each working parent at the same time. We believe this to be the proper construction of A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2.

The legislative purpose of A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 is to provide additional compensation to industrially injured workmen with dependents, albeit an almost negligible amount by today's economic standards. Except for recodification of our statutes in 1956 and for certain amendments adding additional language not here relevant, 1 the 'totally dependent' language of A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 has been present in our statutes relating to compensation for total disability for at least thirty-five years. Arizona Code of 1939 § 56--956(a); Laws 1939, Ch. 28, § 10, p. 53.

In the past it was reasonable to assume that the primary source of family income was the employment of the husband/father. More likely than not, dependents were totally dependent upon the income of the husband/father to finance necessary living expenditures. Under such circumstances, in the unfortunate event that the husband/father were industrially injured he would be entitled to the additional compensation provided in A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2.

The complexities of modern life have increased the financial requirements of individuals and of families. Where it may have been an infrequent occurrence to find a working mother/wife in 1939, it is now often the normal situation. To ignore this development is to blatantly ignore an actual fact: family financial needs now regularly require that each parent or spouse participate in the generation of income. The inescapable consequence of this fact is that their dependents are totally dependent upon the income generated by each working parent at the same time.

Section 23--1045.A.2 must be construed with reference to these social and economic changes. The fact that responsibility for generating family income now frequently rests with both parents rather than one does not in and of itself change the clear legislative purpose of the statute. Statutes are to be construed so as to carry out the purpose and intent of the legislature. Industrial Commission of Arizona v. Harbor Ins. Co., 104 Ariz. 73, 449 P.2d 1 (1968). Technical statutory wording must yield when the clear legislative intent will be frustrated. In re Henry's Estate, 6 Ariz.App. 183, 430 P.2d 937 (1967).

Accordingly, we hold that the language of A.R.S. § 23--1045.A.2 must be construed to mean that dependents are 'totally dependent' upon each working parent at the same time as if each were solely responsible for generating the entire income of the family. We perceive this construction to be in keeping with the humanitarian and compassionate motive which caused the adoption of the statute. See Bierman v. Industrial Commission of Arizona, 2 Ariz.App. 548, 410 P.2d 666 (1966); Camis v. Industrial Commission of...

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