Watson v. Solis, No. 10-6382 (6th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
Watson’s father, Hickle, worked for the Department of Energy, 1954 to 1962. Hickle died of Hodgkin’s disease in 1964. Congress enacted the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act in 2000 to compensate for illnesses caused by exposure to radiation and other toxic substances while working for the Department of Energy. Covered employees or eligible survivors may receive compensation in a lump sum payment; under specific circumstances, a covered employee’s child is also eligible, 42 U.S.C. 7385s-3(d)(2). When her father died, Watson was 19 years old, not a full-time student; she lived with her parents, worked as a waitress, relied on her parents for support, and was listed as a dependent on their income tax returns. She sought survivor benefits in 2002 and received a lump-sum payment of $150,000. She later claimed further compensation as a “covered child,” under a different section of the Act, arguing that she was “incapable of self-support” at the time of Hickle’s death. The Department of Labor denied her claim. Before the district court, Watson challenged the interpretation of “incapable of self-support,” claiming that the Department impermissibly required a showing of physical or mental incapability. The district court denied her motion for summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.