The Legal Walking Dead

In TV’s The Walking Dead, gruesome scenes of the Zombie Apocalypse keep a lot of us in thrall every week. But if you want to see a real legal Zombie, go to Ohio.

In a bizarre twist of interpretation, some states have precedents that can legally create the Walking Dead. The case in point is from Ohio. There, a certain Donald Eugene Miller, Jr was declared dead in 1994 after having disappeared eight years prior. Upon realizing that he had been declared dead, Mr. Miller recently went to court to have the ruling reversed based on the obvious reason that he was alive. But the judge looked at Mr. Miller, who is 61 years of age with proper identification, has a pulse, and did not have body parts falling off or decomposing during the hearing, and ruled that Mr. Miller is still dead. Apparently in Ohio if three years have passed after you’ve been legally declared dead that ruling — no matter how alive you appear or what proof you present — cannot be reversed. You can be alive and walking around but yet you’re a legal zombie because the Court declared it so.

The interesting part is that it is Miller’s ex-wife who is opposing Mr. Miller’s attempt to rejuvenate himself in the eyes of the law. She is concerned over Social Security death payments her children had been receiving since the original declaration of his death. I can also imagine there are a great many personal issues between them after an unexplained disappearance spanning 22 years without a word, until he shows up in court looking for legal resurrection. It must have made for some great, tense drama in the courtroom. Still, I find the court’s ruling bizarre.

The ruling leaves Mr. Miller and any employer that he would seek work from in a peculiar situation. Mr. Miller will have trouble because he cannot get a driver’s license or revitalize his Social Security number. If he were looking for a job, an employer would be reluctant to hire him because of the requirements outlined on an I-9 form.

If he were already employed, what if he could establish a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, under something like a Legal Zombies category? Hey, we’ve all known a few fellow employees who fit the Zombie category, at least. If being dead is a disability ,then can one terminate an employee based on the fact that he died or would you terminate because he didn’t show up to work or perhaps because he can’t produce as much without a working brain? If they were really dead, would providing a refrigerated office space be a reasonable accommodation to reduce obvious physical deterioration?

As Halloween is here and the Day of the Dead approaches, I welcome you to ponder the fact that zombies do exist – at least the legal kind. And as Mr. Miller unhappily learned, if you stay out of touch with family for too long, you’re as good as dead for a whole lot of reasons. But he could always move to Hollywood and find a lurch-on part on the TV show, to give it some real authenticity.

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