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Blowers v. Montana Insurance Guaranty Association

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

October 15, 1996

DANIELA BLOWERS, individually and on behalf of GALEN LEE BLOWERS, II, a minor Petitioner
v.
MONTANA INSURANCE GUARANTY ASSOCIATION Respondent/Insurer for POOL WELL SERVICING COMPANY Employer.

          PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Mike McCarter Judge

         Summary: Widow seeking lump sum conversion of all future workers' compensation benefits for herself and her son seeks partial summary judgment addressing two questions: (1) whether she can lump sum more than two years of benefits and (2) whether the insurer should be ordered to advance monies to pay for further studies concerning her proposed business plan.

         Held: While section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), provides that a lump sum of two years of benefits must be paid to a widow who remarries, with no further benefit entitlement, that section does not limit the conversion of benefits corresponding to more than two years in a situation where remarriage has not occurred. Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985) provides that "biweekly benefits...may be converted, in whole or in part, into a lump-sum payment." In considering the widow's request for an order that benefits be converted, the Court will consider the rule of section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), but there is no per se ban on lump-sum conversion of more than two years of benefits. While the WCC has jurisdiction to consider claimant's request for an advance for a business plan study, she has not provided sufficient factual basis for such an order at this point.

         Topics:

Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: Section 39-71-721, MCA (1985). While section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), provides that a lump sum of two years of benefits must be paid to a widow who remarries, with no further benefit entitlement, that section does not limit the conversion of benefits corresponding to more than two years in a situation where remarriage has not occurred. Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985) provides that "biweekly benefits...may be converted, in whole or in part, into a lump-sum payment." However, in considering the widow's request for an order that benefits be converted, the Court will consider the rule of section 39-71-721, MCA (1985) and the possibility of remarriage.
Constitutions, Statutes, Regulations and Rules: Montana Code Annotated: Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985). While section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), provides that a lump sum of two years of benefits must be paid to a widow who remarries, with no further benefit entitlement, that section does not limit the conversion of benefits corresponding to more than two years in a situation where remarriage has not occurred. Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985) provides that "biweekly benefits...may be converted, in whole or in part, into a lump-sum payment." However, in considering the widow's request for an order that benefits be converted, the Court will consider the rule of section 39-71-721, MCA (1985) and the possibility of remarriage.
Benefits: Lump Sums: Generally. While section 39-71-721, MCA (1985), provides that a lump sum of two years of benefits must be paid to a widow who remarries, with no further benefit entitlement, that section does not limit the conversion of benefits corresponding to more than two years in a situation where remarriage has not occurred. Section 39-71-741(1), MCA (1985) provides that "biweekly benefits...may be converted, in whole or in part, into a lump-sum payment." However, in considering the widow's request for an order that benefits be converted, the Court will consider the rule of section 39-71-721, MCA (1985) and the possibility of remarriage.
Benefits: Lump Sums: Feasability Studies. While the WCC has jurisdiction to consider claimant's request for an advance for a business plan study, she has not provided sufficient factual basis for such an order at this point.

         The petitioner in this case, Daniela Blowers (Daniela), is the widow of Galen Lee Blowers. Mr. Blowers died on May 8, 1985, in an industrial accident. He is survived by Daniela and a son, Galen Lee Blowers, II (Galen Jr.). Galen Jr. was born posthumously on October 31, 1985.

         Since Galen's death, Daniela and Galen Jr. have been receiving the death benefits specified in section 39-71-721, MCA. Those benefits have been paid biweekly.

         Through her present petition, Daniela seeks a lump sum conversion of all future benefits. According to the insurer, the amount requested by Daniela is nearly three-quarter of a million dollars, to be exact, $655, 000. (Pool Well's Response to Motion for Declaratory Ruling at 3.)

         Recognizing that there are serious issues of law attendant to her request, and that her justification for a lump sum is presently inadequate, Daniela has filed a pretrial motion requesting the Court to issue a declaratory ruling regarding two matters. First, she requests the Court to rule that she can lump sum more than two years of benefits. Second, she asks the Court to order the insurer to advance her monies to pay for further studies concerning a proposed business plan. Her motion has been briefed and is ready for decision.

         Discussion

         1. The motion is treated as one for partial summary judgment.

         A declaratory judgment is appropriate where the issues involve a declaration of "rights, status, and other legal relations." § 27-8-201, MCA. Through her petition Daniela seeks a judgment ordering the insurer to pay benefits in a lump sum. Through her present motion, she also seeks an order directing the insurer to pay for business feasibility studies.

         Thus, more than a mere declaration of rights is involved.

         Partial summary judgment is, however, appropriate. Partial summary judgment is an appropriate device to resolve preliminary issues of law which do not involve factual disputes. See Marriage of Meeks, 915 P.2d 831, 835-36 (Mont. 1996). Therefore, Daniela's motion is treated as one for partial summary judgment.

         2.The issues ...


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