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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Wayne Darlington was an employee of Allstate Inc. Reliance National Indemnity Company was the carrier that insured Allstate. Because of its impairment, Texas Property & Casualty Insurance Guaranty Association (TPCIGA) is responsible for discharging Reliance’s policy obligations. Wayne Darlington, died as a result of a compensable injury in the course and scope of his employment on April 2, 1996. At the time of his death, Wayne Darlington was married, through a common-law marriage, to Magdalena Ford. Eric Ford is the son of Magdalena Ford from a prior marriage. Eric was not adopted by Wayne Darlington. Eric is a minor. Eric was Wayne Darlington’s dependent stepson at the time of Wayne Darlington’s death. Death benefits were paid to Eric Ford as a proper legal beneficiary of the claimant. Eric’s death benefits were discontinued after 364 weeks, rather than continuing until his 18th birthday or until his 25th birthday if he were a full-time student. After the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that Eric was only entitled to death benefits for 364 weeks, Morrison appealed to the Travis County court at law. On stipulated facts, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court reversed the Commission’s decision and granted summary judgment in favor of Morrison, denying TPCIGA’s summary-judgment motion. HOLDING:Affirmed. As a child of Darlington, Eric was eligible for benefits because he was a minor. Eric’s classification as a “child,” for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Act, was based on his status as Darlington’s dependent stepchild; his eligibility for death benefits was not based on his being a dependent but on his being a minor. Eric is a child under Texas Labor Code �401.011(7) because, according to the stipulation, he was Darlington’s dependent stepson. There is nothing in �408.182′s plain language to suggest that a dependent stepchild, such as Eric, should be treated differently than any other child who is eligible for death benefits. Section 408.182(f)(1) states that an “eligible child” is any child who is either a minor, a full-time student who is less than 25 years of age, or a dependent of the deceased employee at the time of the employee’s death. Section 408.182(f)(1) uses the statutorily defined term child, and does not distinguish between an adopted child, a biological child or a dependent stepchild. Any minor child’s eligibility for benefits is governed by �408.182(f)(1)(A). On the other hand, the act does not discriminate between the eligibility of a minor child and an adult child. A child who was no longer a minor on the date of an employee’s death is not eligible for death benefits unless that child 1. is under 25 years of age and is enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited educational institution or 2. continued to be financially dependent as an adult based on a disability or for some other reason. It is suggested that a child may be considered an eligible child by simultaneously meeting more than one condition of eligibility under �408.182(f)(1). It is unlikely, the court states, that the Legislature intended to render ineffective �408.183 pertaining to the duration a child is to receive death benefits. Once it is established that Eric is a minor and a child, then he must be treated like any other minor child, the court states. The statute assumes that all minor children are dependent; every minor child’s eligibility is governed by �408.182(f)(1)(A), and the duration of his benefits is governed by �408.183(c) and (d). The court’s construction does not render �408.183(e) meaningless, it merely limits its application to non-minor, dependent children. Eric is eligible to receive death benefits because he is a child who was a minor on the date of Darlington’s death. Accordingly, the trial court correctly applied �408.183 OPINION:Patterson, J.; Smith, Patterson and Puryear, J.J.

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