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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Sharon Ranney v. Whitewater Engineering and Alaska Insurance (10/14/2005) sp-5949

Sharon Ranney v. Whitewater Engineering and Alaska Insurance (10/14/2005) sp-5949

     Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction  before
     publication  in  the  Pacific  Reporter.   Readers  are
     requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk
     of  the  Appellate  Courts, 303  K  Street,  Anchorage,
     Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878,
     e-mail corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


            THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA

SHARON RANNEY, )
) Supreme Court No. S- 11442
Appellant, )
) Superior Court No.
v. ) 3AN-03-7470 CI
)
WHITEWATER ENGINEERING ) O P I N I O N
and ALASKA INSURANCE )
GUARANTY ASSOCIATION for ) [No. 5949 - October 14, 2005]
FREMONT INDUSTRIAL )
(insolvent insurer), )
)
Appellees. )
)
          Appeal  from the Superior Court of the  State
          of    Alaska,   Third   Judicial    District,
          Anchorage, John Reese, Judge.

          Appearances: William J. Soule, Law Office  of
          William  J.  Soule, Anchorage, for Appellant.
          Richard  L.  Wagg,  Russell,  Tesche,   Wagg,
          Cooper & Gabbert, Anchorage, for Appellees.

          Before:   Bryner,  Chief  Justice,  Matthews,
          Eastaugh, Fabe, and Carpeneti, Justices.

          BRYNER, Chief Justice.


I.   INTRODUCTION
          The  Alaska Workers Compensation Act provides that when
an employee suffers a work-related death, the employees surviving
widow  or  widower is eligible for death benefits.   When  Sharon
Ranney sought death benefits after the work-related death of  her
long-term  partner,  Gary Stone, the Alaska Workers  Compensation
Board  ruled  that she was not eligible for benefits because  she
and Stone had never been married.  Ranney challenges this ruling,
arguing  that  the board misinterpreted the workers  compensation
act and violated her rights to privacy and equal protection under
the  Alaska Constitution.  We affirm the boards decision, holding
that  the  decision correctly interpreted the  act  and  did  not
deprive  Ranney  of  her  constitutional  rights,  since  denying
spousal death benefits to Ranney did not substantially burden her
freedom to have an unmarried intimate relationship with Stone and
was  fairly  and  substantially  related  to  the  acts  goal  of
providing  quick,  efficient, fair, and predictable  benefits  to
families of deceased workers at a reasonable cost to employers.
II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
          Sharon   Ranney  and  Gary  Stone  became  romantically
involved  in the spring of 1995 and moved in together that  fall.
Although Stone and Ranney were never legally married, they  lived
together as a couple until Gary Stones death in April 1999.
          While  together  they shared a joint checking  account.
They were jointly listed in the Cordova telephone book.  And they
purchased various kinds of machinery together  a small sawmill, a
crane, and a truck.  Stone also purchased a life-insurance policy
and named Ranney the primary beneficiary.  Although Ranney worked
off  and on throughout their relationship, she depended on Stones
income to maintain her standard of living.  Ranney submitted many
affidavits  from friends attesting to the couples intent  to  get
married.   And Ranney testified that Stone bought her  a  wedding
ring  in  1997 and that he formally proposed to her in  March  of
1999.
          In  April  1999  Stone  was killed  in  a  work-related
accident  while employed by Whitewater Engineering.  Ranney  then
filed  a  claim  for  death benefits as Stones unmarried  spouse.
Whitewater   and   its  insurer,  Fremont  Compensation/Cambridge
Integrated  Services  Group, controverted Ranneys  claim  on  the
ground  that she was never Stones wife and that she was therefore
not entitled to benefits under the act.
          In   addressing  Ranneys  claim,  the  Alaska   Workers
Compensation  Board   noted that AS 23.30.215  provides  for  the
payment  of death benefits to the widow or widower or a child  or
children  of  the  deceased.  Because the act  defines  widow  to
include  only  the  decedents wife living with or  dependent  for
support  upon the decedent at the time of death, or living  apart
for justifiable cause or by reason of the decedents desertion  at
such a time,1 the board reasoned that Ranney would qualify as the
decedents  wife only if she had actually been married  to  Stone.
Since  Ranney  had never married Stone, the board concluded  that
she was ineligible for benefits as his wife.
          After  appealing to the superior court, which  affirmed
the boards decision, Ranney filed this appeal.
III. DISCUSSION
          On appeal, Ranney argues that the unmarried partners of
deceased  employees are eligible to receive death benefits  under
the  workers  compensation act.  Moreover, if the  act  does  not
          cover unmarried but committed relationships like hers and Stones,
Ranney  asserts,  it  violates her rights to  privacy  and  equal
protection under the Alaska Constitution.
     A.   Standard of Review
          In  an  appeal from a decision entered by the  superior
court   as   an  intermediate  court  of  appeal  in  a   workers
compensation   case,   we  independently  review   and   directly
scrutinize  the merits of the boards decision.2  Determining  the
proper  meaning of the act in this case requires us to  interpret
the  words widow and married; we review an agencys interpretation
of   non-technical  statutory  terms  such  as  these  under  the
substitution of judgment standard.3  Whether the act violates the
Alaska  Constitution  presents a  legal  question  and  does  not
involve  agency expertise.  We use our  independent  judgment  to
review constitutional questions.4
     B.   The Acts Express Language

          Ranney  argues that, as Stones [u]nmarried, [d]ependent
[w]idow,  she  is  entitled to death benefits  under  the  Alaska
Workers  Compensation  Act.   Whitewater  responds  that  because
Ranney  was never married to Stone, she fails to qualify  as  his
widow, and so cannot properly claim benefits under the act.
          When  interpreting a statute, we consider its language,
its  purpose, and its legislative history, in an attempt to  give
effect  to the legislatures intent. 5 Although [w]e have rejected
a  mechanical  application of the plain  meaning  rule,  we  have
placed  a  heavy  burden  on parties who  urge  us  to  adopt  an
interpretation   that  appears  contrary  to  a  statutes   plain
language.6
          The  workers  compensation act specifies that  where  a
work-related injury causes an employees death, death benefits are
payable  to  a  widow or widower or a child or  children  of  the
deceased.7   If  there is no widow or widower and  there  are  no
children, then benefits must be paid to specified members of  the
extended family.8
          The act defines widow as only the decedents wife living
with  or  dependent for support upon the decedent at the time  of
death, or living apart for justifiable cause or by reason of  the
decedents  desertion at such a time.9  The act  does  not  define
wife,  but  does provide that  married includes a person  who  is
divorced  but is required by the decree of divorce to  contribute
to the support of the former spouse.10
          Ranney contends that the acts definition of  wife could
plausibly be read to include unmarried cohabitants, so that  they
would fall within the definition of widow.
          We disagree.  The Alaska legislature has directed that
          [w]ords and phrases shall be construed . .  .
          according to their common and approved usage.
          Technical  words and phrases and those  which
          have  acquired  a  peculiar  and  appropriate
          meaning, whether by legislative definition or
          otherwise,  shall be construed  according  to
          the peculiar and appropriate meaning.[11]
          
          Because  wife has not been defined statutorily and  has
          no technical meaning in the present context, we look to common
usage,  where  the  word ordinarily refers to a married  woman.12
Marriage  has been defined by statute.  The Alaska Marriage  Code
provides:
          (a)   Marriage  is  a civil contract  entered
          into  by  one man and one woman that requires
          both a license and solemnization.
          
          . . . .
          
          (b)   A  person may not be joined in marriage
          in  this  state  until  a  license  has  been
          obtained for that purpose as provided in this
          chapter.  A marriage performed in this  state
          is   not   valid  without  solemnization   as
          provided in this chapter.[13]
          
We have previously held that this definition of marriage does not
recognize common law marriage.14  Thus, neither common usage  nor
legislative  definition suggests that people in Ranneys  position
unmarried  cohabitants  should be considered  wives  or  husbands
under the workers compensation act.
          Moreover, the detailed benefits scheme set out  in  the
workers  compensation act suggests that the legislature  did  not
intend to include unmarried cohabitants as beneficiaries.  Alaska
Statute  23.30.215 provides that if there is a widow  or  widower
and/or children, they are entitled to benefits.15  If there is no
widow  or widower and no children, death benefits may go  to  the
employees parents, grandchildren, brothers, and sisters  if  they
were dependent upon the deceased at the time of injury.16
          Where  a  statute expressly enumerates  the  things  or
persons  to  which it applies, we often invoke the  principle  of
statutory  construction  expressio unius est  exclusio  alterius.
This  principle  establishes the inference  that,  where  certain
things  are  designated  in a statute, all  omissions  should  be
understood  as exclusions. 17  We have indicated that [t]he  case
for  application  of  expressio unius est  exclusio  alterius  is
particularly  compelling,  where .  .  .  the  scheme  is  purely
statutory and without a basis in the common law.18  In the context
of  the  workers compensation act, which creates a  detailed  and
complicated scheme for requiring employers to provide support  to
some surviving members of the employees family, it is appropriate
to apply this canon of interpretation. Because the act includes a
detailed  list of beneficiaries, the failure to include unmarried
cohabitants suggests their exclusion.
          In addition, as Whitewater points out, the act includes
in  its  definition  of child, a child in relation  to  whom  the
deceased  employee stood in loco parentis for at least  one  year
before the time of injury.19  And it defines married to include a
person  who is divorced but is required by the decree of  divorce
to  contribute  to  the  support of  the  former  spouse.20   The
legislatures expansion of these definitions shows that where  the
legislature   intended  to  expand  the  meanings   of   commonly
understood words, it did so expressly.
          Ranney  nonetheless  contends  that  [t]he  concept  of
          family is changing, so that she should be included within the
definition of family.  She notes that state law in many instances
includes unmarried persons within its definition of spouse.   She
cites  Alaskas  regulations for adult  public  assistance,  which
include  within  the definition of spouse unmarried  persons  who
live together and hold themselves out to the community as husband
and  wife.21   And  she  points to similar  language  in  Alaskas
childcare assistance program and its disaster relief regulations.22
She  argues  that these programs are intended to  prevent  people
from  going  hungry or homeless.  Because [w]orkers  compensation
death  benefits  serve a very similar purpose,  she  contends,  a
similarly  broad  definition of family should be  read  into  the
workers compensation act.
          But as Whitewater correctly observes in response, under
the  regulations  cited  by  Ranney  the  non-traditional  family
members qualify precisely because the regulations expressly allow
them  to  do  so.   At  most, these regulations  illustrate  that
agencies  are  capable of expanding the meanings of common  terms
when  they intend to do so.  It may be true that the acts purpose
is  analogous  to  the purposes of the various public  assistance
programs cited by Ranney.  But where those programs include  non-
traditional  family members, they do so expressly.  Here  if  the
legislature had intended to include unmarried cohabitants in  its
definition  of widow, it similarly could have done so  expressly.
Accordingly,  it  appears  that  the  legislatures   intent,   as
manifested  in the statutory language, was to limit beneficiaries
to those expressly enumerated in the statute. As Stones unmarried
cohabiting  partner, Ranney is not eligible  for  death  benefits
under the acts language.
          Despite  the  express language of the  statute,  Ranney
contends  that  she should be deemed eligible for benefits  under
our ruling in Burgess Construction Co. v. Lindley.23
          In  Lindley,  the unmarried partner of  a  construction
worker sought workers compensation benefits when her partner  was
killed  on  the  job.24  Jeanne Lindley and the deceased  worker,
Ronald  Lindley, were originally married but had gotten  divorced
and  then later resumed living together.25  Their divorce  decree
required   Ronald  to  contribute  to  Jeannes  support.26    The
construction  company  argued  that  because  the  Lindleys  were
divorced,  Jeanne  was  not a surviving wife  entitled  to  death
benefits under the act.27
          To  determine  whether Jeanne Lindley was  a  surviving
wife  we examined the acts language.  We observed that it defined
married  to  include a person who is divorced but is required  by
the  decree of divorce to contribute to the support of his former
wife.28 And we noted that widow included the decedents wife living
with or dependent for support upon him at the time of his death.29
These definitions led us to conclude that
          the  decedent, though divorced,  was  married
          for  the purpose of the Workmens Compensation
          Act,  for the divorce decree required him  to
          contribute to appellees support.  It  follows
          that under the Act appellee would be regarded
          as his surviving wife.[30]
          
We  then determined that because she was his wife for purposes of
the  statute,  and  because  she was  living  with  him  and  was
dependent upon him for her support, Jeanne  Lindley qualified  as
Ronald  Lindleys widow.31  We therefore held that Jeanne  Lindley
was entitled to benefits.32
          Ranney  argues that Lindley stands for the  proposition
that  an  unmarried dependent live-in partner  is  a  spouse  for
purposes  of  the act; to hold otherwise, Ranney suggests,  would
frustrate the liberal humanitarian purposes of the act.
          But  Ranneys reliance on Lindley is misplaced.   To  be
sure,  we  described our holding in Lindley as  required  by  the
liberal  humanitarian purposes of the Act.33  But Lindley  hardly
supports Ranneys further contention that the goal of the [Workers
Compensation  Act]  is  to compensate dependent  people,  not  to
compensate  dependent people who went through a formal  ceremony.
Lindley  did  not  hold  that  Jeanne Lindleys  dependency  alone
sufficed to render her eligible for benefits.  Instead, it relied
primarily on the statutory definitions.  Under those definitions,
Jeanne qualified as being married to Ronald Lindley when he died.
Consequently, she qualified as his wife.  The definition of widow
includes  wives  who were living with the decedent  or  who  were
dependent upon him.  Jeanne was both.  She therefore qualified as
his  widow.  As his widow, she qualified for benefits.  In  other
words, it was Jeannes formal, legal relation with Ronald, coupled
with her dependency upon him, that qualified her for benefits.
          By  contrast,  Ranney  was not,  and  had  never  been,
married  to  Stone  when  he died.  And  Stone  was  not  legally
obligated to support her.  Under Lindley, then, Ranney  does  not
qualify for benefits.
          Ranney further argues that the purpose of the act is to
compensate dependents for a workers death.  She insists  that  in
light  of  this purpose, the distinctions created by the  statute
between  married  and  unmarried wives should  be  ignored.   Yet
compensating  dependents is not the acts singular purpose.34  The
acts  broader purpose is to provide a system of compensation that
is   quick,   efficient,  fair  and  predictable   and   is   not
unreasonably expensive for employers.35
          As  Whitewater points out, allowing unmarried  partners
to  receive  benefits  would require  the  board  to  distinguish
between relationships that were sufficiently serious to merit the
award of benefits and those that were not.  Whitewater also notes
that  requiring such a fact-intensive inquiry could substantially
delay  the  award  of  benefits  and  undermine  the  quick   and
predictable award of benefits.
          The  legislature  could  have  adopted  a  system  that
required  that each relationship be scrutinized on an  individual
basis to determine whether death benefits should be granted.  But
it  did  not.  Instead, it engaged in the traditional legislative
practice  of line drawing.  The legislature apparently determined
that  the potentially increased precision of requiring an ad  hoc
decision  in  all cases would be so administratively costly  that
the system would better be served by using a more formal rule  in
this case requiring marriage  for determining which relationships
require the payment of benefits.36  By adopting marriage  as  the
          primary criterion for determining when an intimate partner
qualifies for benefits, the legislature has determined that legal
marriage is an adequate proxy for the more particularized inquiry
concerning  whether  a  relationship is  serious  enough  or  the
partner is sufficiently dependent to justify awarding benefits.
          As  with  all  line drawing, particularly where  social
welfare legislation is involved, the precise point where the line
is  drawn may seem arbitrary, and there may be close cases at the
margins.37   But  this  does  not  mean  that  line  drawing   is
impermissible.   This  kind  of  line  drawing   which   involves
balancing the benefits of greater precision against its costs and
determining how the workers compensation system can best  provide
support   for   workers  and  their  families   is   within   the
legislatures  competence.   We  decline  Ranneys  invitation   to
substitute our judgment for the legislatures.
     C.   Right to Privacy
          Ranney    alternatively   argues   that   the    boards
determination  that she was ineligible for benefits  because  she
was  never married to Stone violates her constitutional right  to
privacy.  Ranney posits that she has a fundamental right to  live
with  Mr.  Stone  in  a  marriage-like relationship  without  the
formality  of  a civil or religious marriage ceremony.   And  she
argues that the Boards interpretation of [AS 23.30.215] infringes
upon  Ms.  Ranneys right to privacy because she  cannot  exercise
that  right  in  respect  to her intimate  relationships  without
losing  her  right  as a dependent to death benefits  under  [the
statute].
          Article  I,  section  22  of  the  Alaska  Constitution
provides that, [t]he right of the people to privacy is recognized
and  shall  not  be  infringed.  The right  of  privacy  protects
fundamental  rights of personal autonomy,38 including  a  persons
right to control his appearance,39 a patients privacy interest in
protecting sensitive personal information from public disclosure,40
and a womans reproductive rights.41  Ranney argues that the right
to  privacy  similarly protects her right to  have  an  unmarried
intimate relationship with Stone.
          When a party argues that a statutory provision violates
the partys right to privacy, we ordinarily balance the importance
of the individual right allegedly infringed against the interests
of  the  state.42   Where a fundamental right  is  infringed,  we
require  the  state to articulate a compelling  interest  and  to
demonstrate the absence of a less restrictive alternative.43   In
contrast, where the state interferes with an individuals  freedom
in  an  area that is not characterized as fundamental, we require
the  state  to  show  a  legitimate  interest  and  a  close  and
substantial  relationship between its  interest  and  its  chosen
means of advancing that interest.44
          Here,  we  assume  for purposes of  our  decision  that
Ranney  has  a  fundamental right to have an  unmarried  intimate
relationship  with Stone.  But even so, her constitutional  claim
falls  short because the workers compensation act at most imposes
only  a  minimal  burden on the relational  freedom  asserted  by
Ranney.
          Ranneys   privacy  argument  seems   to   assume   that
          conferring a benefit on persons who marry necessarily burdens
liberty  interests of persons who freely choose not to.  But  the
states  decision  to  provide benefits to people  who  choose  to
exercise a constitutional right does not invariably require it to
provide  equal  benefits  to those who decline  to  exercise  the
right.  For example, the state provides free public schooling  at
state  expense.45   But providing these benefits to parents  does
not  require  the state to provide matching funds to  people  who
choose not to have children.  Nor does the states failure  to  do
so  impose  any  significant burden on  their  important  privacy
interest  in  choosing not to have children.  Similarly,  in  the
present  case, the states decision to provide benefits to married
people  unquestionably benefits couples who choose to marry;  but
giving  this  admittedly one-sided benefit to persons  who  marry
does  not  in itself equate to imposing a significant  burden  on
those  who freely choose not to.  Yet apart from relying  on  the
one-sided nature of the benefit, Ranney has failed to explain how
her relational rights have been burdened.  Nor do we perceive any
significant  burden.   To  be sure, our substantive  due  process
clause  requires that all laws bear a reasonable  relation  to  a
legitimate state purpose.46  But as we explain below in discussing
Ranneys  equal  protection complaint, the challenged  legislation
easily  satisfies that standard.  Thus, given Ranneys failure  to
identify  any  significant  burden on  the  rights  of  unmarried
couples to pursue committed relationships while choosing  not  to
marry, we find no violation of her right to privacy.
     D.   Equal Protection

          Ranney  also  argues that the workers compensation  act
infringes  her  right to equal protection  under  the  law.   She
argues  that she is similarly situated to legally married  wives:
Ms.  Ranney was dependent upon Mr. Stone at the time of his death
just   like  legally  married  wives  are  dependent  upon  their
husbands.  And she contends that because, unlike legally  married
wives, dependents in her situation are not eligible for benefits,
AS 23.30.215 violates the equal protection clause.
          We apply a sliding scale to equal protection analysis.
          To  implement Alaskas . . . equal  protection
          standard,   we  have  adopted  a  three-step,
          sliding-scale    test    that    places     a
          progressively greater or lesser burden on the
          state,  depending  on the importance  of  the
          individual  right affected  by  the  disputed
          classification   and  the   nature   of   the
          governmental  interests at stake:  first,  we
          determine   the  weight  of  the   individual
          interest   impaired  by  the  classification;
          second,  we  examine the  importance  of  the
          purposes  underlying the governments  action;
          and third, we evaluate the means employed  to
          further   those   goals  to   determine   the
          closeness of the means-to-end fit.[47]
          
          We  have held that [w]orkers compensation benefits  are
          merely an economic interest, and therefore, are entitled only to
minimum protection under this courts equal protection analysis.48
Under  this  level of protection, the states ends  need  only  be
legitimate and the statutes classification must bear a  fair  and
substantial relationship to the purposes of the Act.49
          As  we  noted  above, the acts purpose  to  ensure  the
quick, efficient, fair and predictable delivery of indemnity  and
medical  benefits  to  injured workers at a  reasonable  cost  to
employers  is certainly legitimate.50   Ranney nonetheless argues
that the state cannot show that the challenged provision bears  a
fair and substantial relation to the acts purpose, because
          the Act is not intended to do anything except
          compensate   injured   workers   and    their
          dependents  for  work-related  injuries   and
          deaths.  The Act is not intended to encourage
          marriage  or  to  strengthen any  traditional
          concept  of  marriage or family   its  intent
          under  these  circumstances is to  compensate
          dependents of a deceased worker.
          
(Emphasis in original.) Given this purpose, Ranney maintains, the
distinction   between  legally-married  spouses   and   unmarried
cohabitants is untenable.
          Yet  even  if  one purpose of the act is to  compensate
dependents rather than families,51 Ranneys argument overlooks the
fact  that the act also serves another, even broader purpose:  to
provide benefits in a manner that is quick, efficient, fair,  and
predictable,  at a reasonable cost to the employer.52   The  acts
spousal  benefit substantially furthers this overarching purpose,
even  if  it  might  fall  short in  compensating  all  potential
dependents.
          Because the acts spousal death benefit provision  bears
a  close  and substantial relationship to furthering a legitimate
state  interest, it does not violate Ranneys constitutional right
to equal protection.  The legislature also had to devise a system
that was quick, efficient, and predictable and that could provide
benefits  without unduly burdening employers.  As already  noted,
the  legislature  could have taken an ad hoc  approach.   But  it
could  just  as reasonably have concluded that such  an  approach
would  be  slower,  less  efficient,  and  less  predictable  for
beneficiaries   and   unduly  expensive   for   employers.    The
legislatures reliance on marriage as the determining  factor  for
spousal   death  benefits  thus  bears  a  fair  and  substantial
relationship  to the goal of ensuring the quick, efficient,  fair
and  predictable delivery of benefits at a reasonable cost.   The
acts  balance between perfect fairness on the one hand, and cost,
efficiency,  speed,  and predictability on the  other,  does  not
violate the equal protection clause.
IV.  CONCLUSION
          For  the  foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the decision  of
the board denying death benefits to Ranney.
_______________________________
     1    AS 23.30.395(33).

     2     Alyeska  Pipeline Serv. Co. v. DeShong, 77 P.3d  1227,
1231 (Alaska 2003).

     3     Northern Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. State, Dept of  Natural
Res.,  2  P.3d 629, 633 (Alaska 2000) (noting that we  review  an
agencys  interpretation  of . . . non-technical  statutory  terms
under the substitution of judgment standard).

     4     Holding v. Municipality of Anchorage, 63 P.3d 248, 250
(Alaska 2003).

     5     DeShong,  77  P.3d  at  1234  (quoting  Muller  v.  BP
Exploration (Alaska) Inc., 923 P.2d 783, 787 (Alaska 1996)).

     6     Muller v. BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., 923 P.2d  783,
787 (Alaska 1996).

     7    AS 23.30.215(a)(2).

     8    AS 23.30.215(a)(4).

     9    AS 23.30.395(33).

     10    AS 23.30.395(19).

     11    AS 01.10.040(a).   See also Tesoro Alaska Petroleum Co.
v.  Kenai Pipe Line Co., 746 P.2d 896, 905 (Alaska 1983)  (citing
AS 01.10.040).

     12     See Serradell v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co.,  843
P.2d  639,  641  (Alaska 1992) (relying on a  lay  definition  of
spouse).  See also Hedland v. Monumental Gen. Ins. Co., 404  N.W.
2d 371, 373-74 (Minn. App. 1987) (noting that  spouse is commonly
known to mean husband or wife), quoted in Serradell, 843 P.2d  at
641  n.6.   By  the same token, wife is commonly  known  to  mean
spouse, or a married woman.

     13    AS 25.05.011.

     14     Harrelson  v.  Harrelson, 932 P.2d 247,  250  (Alaska
1997).

     15    AS 23.30.215 provides in relevant part:

          (a)    If   the  injury  causes  death,   the
          compensation is known as a death benefit  and
          is payable in the following amounts to or for
          the benefit of the following persons:
          
          . . . .
          
          (2)   if  there  is a widow or widower  or  a
          child  or  children  of  the  deceased,   the
          following percentages of the spendable weekly
          wages of the deceased:
          
          (A)  80 percent for the widow or widower with
          no children;
          
          (B)  50 percent for the widow or widower with
          one child and 40 percent for the child;
          
          (C)  30 percent for the widow or widower with
          two  or  more children and 70 percent divided
          equally among the children;
          
          (D)  100 percent for an only child when there
          is no widow or widower;
          
          (E)   100 percent, divided equally, if  there
          are  two  or  more children and no  widow  or
          widower;
          
          . . . .
          
          (4)  if there is no widow or widower or child
          or  children, then for the support of father,
          mother,  grandchildren, brothers and sisters,
          if dependent upon the deceased at the time of
          injury,  42  percent of the spendable  weekly
          wage  of  the deceased to such beneficiaries,
          share  and share alike, not to exceed $20,000
          in the aggregate;
          
          (5)   $5,000 to a surviving widow or widower,
          or  equally divided among surviving  children
          of  the  deceased if there  is  no  widow  or
          widower.
          
     16    AS 23.30.215(a)(4).

     17    Croft v. Pan Alaska Trucking, Inc., 820 P.2d 1064, 1066
(Alaska  1991)  (citing Puller v. Municipality of Anchorage,  574
P.2d 1285, 1287 (Alaska 1978)).

     18    Croft, 820 P.2d at 1066.

     19    AS 23.30.395(6).

     20    AS 23.30.395(19).

     21    7 Alaska Administrative Code (AAC) 40.240(b)(2).

     22    4 AAC 65.901(a)(18) (defining family for the Child Care
Assistance  Program);  6  AAC  94.900(12)  (defining  family  for
Disaster Assistance Programs).

     23    504 P.2d 1023 (Alaska 1972).

     24    Id. at 1023-24.

     25    Id. at 1023.

     26    Id.

     27    Id.

     28    Id. at 1024.

     29    Id.

     30    Id.

     31    Id.

     32    Id. at 1025.

     33    Id.

     34    Indeed, dependency alone is not enough under the act to
render  someone eligible for benefits.  For example, cousins  and
friends are never eligible for benefits.  The dependent must be a
grandchild,  a  parent, or a sibling.  And even those  dependents
are  only eligible if there is neither a surviving spouse nor any
children.  AS 23.30.215(a)(4).

     35    E.g., Meek v. Unocal Corp., 914 P.2d 1276, 1281 (Alaska
1996).

     36     In  Trombley v. Starr-Wood Cardiac Group, PC, 3  P.3d
916, 923 (Alaska 2000), we noted the difficulty of assessing  the
emotional,   sexual  and  financial  relationship  of  cohabiting
parties to determine whether their arrangement was the equivalent
of  a  marriage . . . . (quoting Elden v. Sheldon, 758 P.2d  582,
590 (Cal. 1988)).

     37    State, Div. of Elections v. Metcalfe, 110 P.3d 976, 981
(Alaska  2005).  See also Califano v. Boles, 443  U.S.  282,  284
(1979)  (noting  that  with  social security  legislation,  [t]he
process  of categorization presents the difficulties inherent  in
any  line-drawing  exercise  where  the  draftsman  confronts   a
universe of potential beneficiaries with different histories  and
distinct  needs.   He strives for a level of generality  that  is
administratively  practicable with  full  appreciation  that  the
included class has members whose needs upon a statutorily defined
occurrence  may not be as marked as those of isolated individuals
outside  the  classification.  General rules are essential  if  a
fund  of  this magnitude is to be administered with a modicum  of
efficiency,  even though such rules inevitably produce  seemingly
arbitrary  consequences in some individual cases.  A  process  of
case-by-case  adjudication that would provide a  perfect  fit  in
theory  would increase administrative expenses to a  degree  that
benefit  levels would probably be reduced, precluding  a  perfect
fit in fact.) (internal citation omitted).  See also Colgrove  v.
Battin,  413  U.S.  149,  183 (1973) (Marshall,  J.,  dissenting)
(Normally,  in  our  system we leave the  inevitable  process  of
arbitrary  line drawing to the Legislative Branch, which  is  far
better equipped to make ad hoc compromises.  In the past, we have
therefore given great deference to legislative decisions in cases
where  the  line must be drawn somewhere and cannot be  precisely
delineated  by reference to principle.  This Court  has  involved
itself  in  the  sticky  business of  separating  cases  along  a
continuum only when the Constitution clearly compels it to do  so
and when the legislature has plainly defaulted.).

     38    Sampson v. State, 31 P.3d 88, 94 (Alaska 2001).

     39    Breese v. Smith, 501 P.2d 159, 169 (Alaska 1972).

     40    Falcon v. Alaska Pub. Offices Commn, 570 P.2d 469, 480
(Alaska 1977).

     41    Valley Hosp. Assn, Inc. v. Mat-Su Coalition for Choice,
948 P.2d 963, 969 (Alaska 1997).

     42    Sampson, 31 P.3d at 91.

     43    Id.

     44    Id.

     45    AS 14.03.080.

     46     Cabana v. Kenai Peninsula Borough, 50 P.3d  798,  805
(Alaska 2002).

     47     Malabed  v. North Slope Borough, 70 P.3d 416,  420-21
(Alaska 2003).

     48     Williams v. State, Dept of Revenue, 895 P.2d 99,  104
(Alaska 1995).

     49     Id. (quoting Gilmore v. Alaska Workers Comp. Bd., 882
P.2d 922, 927 (Alaska 1994)).

     50    Meek, 914 P.2d at 1281 (citing ch. 79,  1, SLA 1988).

     51    Compare Taylor v. Southeast-Harrison Western Corp., 694
P.2d 1160, 1164 (Alaska 1985) (characterizing the goal of the Act
as  being  to secure guaranteed and expeditious compensation  for
injured  workers  and their dependents . . . .) (emphasis  added)
with  Wien  Air Alaska v. Arant, 592 P.2d 352, 357 (Alaska  1979)
(describing  the  purpose as to compensate the victims  of  work-
rated  injury for a part of their economic loss, measured by  the
wage loss to the worker or the surviving family) (emphasis added)
(overruled  on  other grounds by Fairbanks N. Star  Borough  Sch.
Dist. v. Crider, 736 P.2d 770, 775 (Alaska 1987)).

     52     Meek, 914 P.2d at 1281.