WEBER V. AETNA CAS. & SUR. CO., 406 U. S. 164 (1972)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Weber v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 406 U.S. 164 (1972)

Weber v. Aetna Cas. & Surety Co.

No. 70-5112

Argued February 28, 1972

Decided April 24, 1972

406 U.S. 164


Decedent, who died as a result of injuries received during the course of his employment, had maintained a household with four legitimate minor children, one unacknowledged minor child, and petitioner, to whom he was not married. His wife had been committed to a mental hospital. A second illegitimate child was born posthumously. Under Louisiana's workmen's compensation law unacknowledged illegitimate children are not within the class of "children," but are relegated to the lesser status of "other dependents," and may recover only if there are not enough surviving dependents in the preceding classes to exhaust the maximum benefits. The four legitimate children were awarded the maximum allowable compensation, and the two illegitimate children received nothing. The Louisiana courts sustained the statutory scheme, holding that Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U. S. 68, was not controlling.

Held: Louisiana's denial of equal recovery rights to the dependent unacknowledged illegitimate children violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as the inferior classification of these dependent children bears no significant relationship to the recognized purposes of recovery that workmen's compensation statutes were designed to serve. Levy v. Louisiana, supra, followed; Labine v. Vincent, 401 U. S. 532, distinguished. Pp. 406 U. S. 167-176.

257 La. 424, 242 So.2d 567, reversed and remanded.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in the result, post, p. 406 U. S. 176. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 406 U. S. 177.

Page 406 U. S. 165

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