Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.

RESPONDENT: Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.
LOCATION: Iowa State Penitentiary

DOCKET NO.: 70-5112
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: Louisiana Supreme Court

CITATION: 406 US 164 (1972)
ARGUED: Feb 28, 1972
DECIDED: Apr 24, 1972

Vanue B. Lacour - for petitioner
W. Henson Moore - for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 28, 1972 in Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in 70-5112, Weber against the Aetna Casualty.

Vanue B. Lacour:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Lacour.

Vanue B. Lacour:

-- and may it please the Court.

This case is here on certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana.

The sole issue before the Court is whether or not the denial of workmen’s compensation to dependent illegitimate children of a single family unit, solely because they are really illegitimate deprives such illegitimate children of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

I’ll sketch the facts of the case briefly.

Henry Clyde Stokes was the father of four legitimate children born of the marriage with a lawfully wedded wife from whom he was separated.

He became the paramour or common-law husband of Willie Mae Weber.

He moved his four illegitimate children into the house with her and lived there as a family unit.

Warren E. Burger:

When you say common-law, that did not mean --

Vanue B. Lacour:

That don’t mean -- I mean out of wedlock wife if I may put it that way.

Warren E. Burger:

He could not be a common-law husband.

Vanue B. Lacour:

There are no common-law marriages in Louisiana.

Potter Stewart:

And his lawful wife was still living?

Vanue B. Lacour:

His lawful wife was still living but they were separated not judicially separated or divorced.

While living with Willie Mae Weber, they were born one child of their illicit or out of wedlock relationship.

Then while they were living, he was employed as a truck driver.

He was killed on the job and of course, the scope of his employment had no dispute was that he was covered by workmen’s compensation under Louisiana law.

And sometime after his death, there was born to Willie Mae Weber another child conceived out of the relationship with him prior to his death.

Now --

Potter Stewart:

Is there any question Mr. Lacour about that second child if that second child had been a legitimate child, although a posthumous child?

Would that child had been counted as a child under the workmen’s compensation?

Vanue B. Lacour:

Yes, he would have.

But if he is a posthumous child and an illegitimate child, Louisiana does, even though it isn’t involve in this case, Louisiana does draw a distinct between a posthumous illegitimate and a posthumous legitimate.

A posthumous legitimate child will be paid workmen’s compensation but not a posthumous illegitimate, which is another discrimination not emphasized in the case however, because there are larger discriminations here which we could not even get to this.

Warren E. Burger:

But it is not partly related in a practical sense to the problems of proof?

Vanue B. Lacour:

That is argued, I suppose so; however, without being suspicious, I suppose the proof of paternity you assume it.

You prove it by outward manifestation of family membership.

In this instance, the posthumous child that the mother conceived the child, she was pregnant had no doubt in the record, it’s not in dispute that Henry Clyde Stoke, the deceased employee was the father of the child.