Employee wins benefits despite toxicology report indicating drug use
AHC Variety Inc./Sherwood, 108 NYWCLR 256 (N.Y. W.C.B. Panel 2008).
The New York Workers' Compensation Board held that the claimant's one-car motor vehicle accident arose out of and in the course of employment despite the presence of marijuana in the claimant's system after the accident.
What it means:
In New York, a claimant's toxicology report, alone, is insufficient proof to meet the employer's burden of proving that the claimant's accident was solely the result of marijuana use.
The claimant had a one-car motor vehicle accident while driving to an appointment with a customer. He was given a ticket for reckless driving. A hospital toxicology report noted marijuana in the claimant's system. The employer's carrier argued that the claimant's accident was not compensable because it was caused by his illegal drug use.
However, New York law creates a presumption that an accident occurred in and arose out of the course of employment "unless the injury did not result solely from the intoxication of the injured employee while on duty." In finding the accident compensable, the NYWCB determined that the carrier did not defeat this statutory presumption.
Although the hospital's toxicology report indicated the claimant had marijuana in his system, there was no proof that the claimant's accident resulted solely from marijuana use. The claimant testified that although he had taken puffs of marijuana in the past, he did not use the drug around the date of accident. Furthermore, the accident report did not indicate any evidence of marijuana at the scene of the accident.
As the carrier provided no other proof other than a toxicology report, it did not meet its burden that the claimant's accident was solely the result of marijuana use.
March 19, 2009
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