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SMALLWOOD v. AMERICAN TRADING & TRANSP. CO.

November 4, 1994

DORIS SMALLWOOD and MARLA GLADNEY-SMALLWOOD, individually and as Joint Personal Representatives of the Estate of LLOYD C. SMALLWOOD, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
AMERICAN TRADING & TRANSPORTATION CO., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARILYN HALL PATEL

 Plaintiffs Doris Smallwood and Marla Gladney-Smallwood, decedents of Lloyd Smallwood, brought this maritime wrongful death action pursuant to section 905(b) of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act ("LHWCA"), 33 U.S.C. § 905(b), on behalf of themselves and as representatives of the estate of Lloyd Smallwood against defendant American Trading & Transportation Co. ("ATTRANSCO").

 The matter is currently before the court on cross-motions for partial summary judgment by ATTRANSCO and Marla Gladney-Smallwood on the limited issue of whether Marla Gladney-Smallwood's children have standing to bring this action. Having considered the parties' submissions and arguments the court enters the following opinion.

 BACKGROUND

 The undisputed facts relevant to this motion can be briefly summarized. *fn1"

 Lloyd Smallwood burned to death on July 18, 1991 when sparks from welding he was performing on an ATTRANSCO vessel (the American Trader) ignited a pressurized oil line. Mr. Smallwood married Doris Howell on January 17, 1970. Lloyd and Doris Smallwood had two children together: Alycyn, born 10/1/70, and Lloydene, born 11/5/71. Lloyd and Doris never divorced, though they separated in June 1972 and did not live together thereafter. Lloyd moved to California in 1982, while Doris and the children stayed in Pennsylvania. Except for occasional gifts, Lloyd did not contribute to the support of these children after 1982.

 Marla Rae Tigner married Otis Gladney in 1975, and they remained married through the time of Lloyd Smallwood's death. They had three children together: Tia Gladney, born 8/14/77, Terrence Gladney, born 6/24/79, and Brandon Gladney, born 11/17/81 [hereinafter "the Gladney children"]. Otis Gladney has not contributed to the support of his children since 1985.

 Marla Gladney and Lloyd Smallwood met in California in 1987. Sometime in 1988, Marla, the Gladney children, and Lloyd began to live together, and they continued to do so through the time of Lloyd's death. During this period, Lloyd and Marla deposited their earnings and other money in jointly held bank accounts, and drew from those accounts to pay for the necessities of life for themselves and the Gladney children. Lloyd never adopted the three Gladney children, and never filed any application to do so. However, Marla Gladney represented herself as Lloyd's wife on insurance forms, and Lloyd was listed as Terrence Gladney's parent/guardian on his 1991-92 school registration form. In addition, Lloyd listed the Gladney children as dependent stepchildren on various state and federal tax forms. Finally, one month before his death, Lloyd petitioned in Alameda County Superior Court to be declared guardian ad litem for the Gladney children with respect to a claim they had against Safeway, on the basis that he was their custodial parent and/or legal guardian.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment shall be granted:

 
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

 The court's function on a motion for summary judgment is not to make credibility determinations, id. at 249, and the inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. T.W. Elec. Serv. v. ...


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