Articles Posted in Real Party In Interest

Z.L., a minor who had been adopted as an infant, had reactive attachment disorder. The disorder apparently did not manifest until a few years after his adoption, when Z.L. became disruptive in the household.

The State filed a petition to adjudicate wardship, with the intent to place Z.L. in a foster home. Although they were designated as respondents to the the State’s petition, Z.L.’s parents agreed with the State and the petition. Only Z.L.’s Guardian Ad Litem opposed the State’s petition.

The trial court ruled that good cause did not exist to grant the State’s petition. Z.L.’s parents appealed the trial court’s decision. The State did not appeal, although it did file a brief supporting Z.L.’s parents. And while the GAL was named as an appellee, the GAL did not file an opposing brief.

This dispute began 27 years ago when Robert Melvin applied for black lung benefits. After “amazingly protracted proceedings,” the Benefits Review Board upheld an award to Melvin’s widow. However, Melvin’s former employer, Old Ben Coal Company, and its parent company, were liquidated by a bankruptcy court. Although Old Ben and its parent had no assets, Mrs. Melvin’s award was to be paid by the Department of Labor out of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

Old Ben petitioned the appellate court for review of the award. How does a defunct corporation that has been liquidated in bankruptcy do that? And why?

Here’s the explanation Old Ben’s attorneys gave. Horizon Natural Resources owned Old Ben at one time. Standard Oil of Indiana owned Horizon. B-P America bought Standard Oil. St. Paul Travelers Insurance Company issued a surety bond to Standard Oil. Old Ben’s lawyers said that a federal statute may allow the Department of Labor to recover from St. Paul the sums it paid to Mrs. Melvin. So St. Paul and B-P were paying Old Ben’s lawyers to dispute the award to Mrs. Melvin.

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