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Daniel@everydayevidence.og

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Unmarried Cohabitants and Workers' Comp (Is adultery/fornication statute constitutional?)

In a recent SC Supreme Court case, the court looked at who qualified as a "dependent" under the Workers' Comp Act. The decedent's mother and on-again-off-again girlfriend both claimed to be a dependent and sought death benefits. The commissioner denied the girlfriend's claim based, on part, of the statute prohibiting "fornication and adultery." S.C. Statute 16-15-60 makes it illegal to live with and "be" with another person without being married. You can find the definition of fornication and adultery here. The commissioner concluded that "the General Assembly did not intend for the statutory term 'dependent' to include someone in an 'illicit' relationship."


The Supreme Court first defined what the requirements for a dependent are:

The court then had to address whether unmarried cohabitants can be considered dependents in order to receive death benefits. The court ultimately held that "in order to qualify as a dependent under that section, the claimant must show a legal relationship or alternatively, an affirmative undertaking with the decedent." So I believe that this means that even though the unmarried cohabitant cannot show a legal relationship, they still have the opportunity to show an affirmative relationship.


Applying the facts of the case to the definition, the court held that the mother was the sole dependent for death benefits.



This case could have brought up an interesting constitutional issue: are these statutes legal in light of Lawrence v. Texas? The court however focused on the factual and legal relationship between the girlfriend and decedent. The court addressed this issue in a footnote: