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Imani v. Heckler

decided: July 31, 1986.

NIA J. IMANI, ON BEHALF OF TERRON HAYES, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MARGARET HECKLER, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 83 C 1820-William E. Steckler, Judge.

Bauer, Wood, and Eschbach, Circuit Judges.

Author: Eschbach

ESCHBACH, Circuit Judge.

The primary question presented in this appeal is whether the district court erred in affirming the decision of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services denying Terron Hayes surviving child's benefits under the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, we will affirm.

I

Nia J. Imani, also known as Ramona D. Hayes, filed an "Application for Surviving Child's Insurance Benefits" with the Department of Health and Human Services ("Department") on November 22, 1976, on behalf of her son, Terron Hayes. Imani claimed that Terron was the child of Terry Williams, the deceased wage earner, who died insured on November 4, 1972. After the Department denied her claim on March 8, 1977, she filed a "Request for Reconsideration," which was denied on September 26, 1978. In response to Imani's timely request, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on December 18, 1978. Imani, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified in support of her claim. In a decision dated March 6, 1979, the ALJ concluded that Terron was not entitled to surviving child's insurance benefits on the social-security record of Terry Williams.

Pursuant to a court order in an unrelated case, the Department reexamined Imani's original application and once again denied it in a notice dated April 14, 1982. Upon Imani's request for reconsideration, the claim was again denied on June 21, 1982. Imani then sought another hearing before an ALJ, which was held on February 7, 1983. Imani, once again represented by counsel, appeared and testified in support of her application for Terron. The evidence adduced at that proceeding may be outlined as follows:

Imani, then 17 years old, attended from May or June of 1972 to August of 1972, a college preparatory course in Jefferson City, Missouri. She testified that she had no sexual relations during that time. At the conclusion of the course, she returned to her parents' home in Columbia, Missouri. Within a week of Imani's return, Wanda Stapleton, a cousin and friend, introduced her to the wage earner, Terry Williams, then 21 years old. After two or three weeks, the relationship between Imani and Williams "sped up," and they would meet and engage in sexual intercourse at the residence either of Ms. Stapleton or of Danese Williams. The latter was Imani's sister and unrelated to Terry Williams. Imani testifies that she did not recall how many times she had sex with Williams, but eventually suggested that the number was either five or six. Their final liaison occurred on approximately October 21, 1972. Imani and Williams had a dispute at that time, because he would not take her to a movie, and she did not see him again before he was murdered on November 4, 1972.

Imani testified that she thought she might be pregnant in late October of 1972 and that, after a preliminary examination at a clinic, she called Williams two weeks before his death to discuss the matter with him. She underwent a second examination and was informed on November 3, 1972, that she was in fact pregnant. She was unable, however, to relate that information to Williams before he was shot to death on the following day. Imani claimed, nonetheless, that Williams "knew" he was the father. She also offered hearsay evidence in an attempt to prove that Williams had acknowledged to others that he would be a father. She could not, however, show that Williams was regularly providing her with funds, although he did occasionally purchase some beer and food for their dates. Nonetheless, she claimed that he gave Wanda Stapleton $10 to give to Imani to cover the costs of a pregnancy test.

Terron Hayes was born on June 4, 1973, in Columbia, Missouri. The pregnancy was full-term, so that conception probably occurred in late August or early September of 1972. A comparison of the blood types of Imani and Williams does not exclude paternity, but also cannot conclusively determine it, because approximately 30% of the black males in the United States could have fathered a child with Terron's blood type. Imani offered evidence concerning the statements and actions of third parties to support her claim that Williams was the father. She also produced photographs in an attempt to demonstrate a striking resemblance between her son and Williams. The ALJ, however, was not persuaded by the pictures, and Imani subsequently stated that Terron resembled both of his parents.

In an exhaustive order dated June 17, 1983, the ALJ found that the child was not entitled to the benefits sought in the application filed in November of 1976. In support of this conclusion, he made the following findings:

1. Terron Hayes is not the "child" of the wage earner under Missouri State law as required by Section 216(h)(2)(A) of the Social Security Act.

2. Terron Hayes is not the "child" of the wage earner pursuant to Section 216(h)(2)(B) of the Social Security Act as his mother and the wage earner never went through a marriage ceremony.

3. Terron Hayes is not the "child" of the wage earner pursuant to Section 216(h)(3)(C) of the Social Security Act as the evidence of record does not establish that the wage earner was ever decreed by a court to be his father, was ever ordered by a court to contribute to his support, or ever acknowledged him in writing. Furthermore, the evidence of record does not establish that the wage earner was his biological father ...


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