Evidence of intoxication fails to stop boilermaker's accident claim
Wiltsie Construction Co. Inc. and State Insurance Fund, 109 NYWCLR 8 (N.Y.W.C.B. Panel 2008).
The New York Workers' Compensation Board affirmed a decision awarding benefits to the claimant, who fell while working as a union boilermaker, despite some evidence that he used illicit drugs prior to the fall.
What it means: New York law creates a presumption that a claimant's injury was not caused "solely by his intoxication." Circumstantial evidence that the claimant may have been intoxicated at the time of his accident is insufficient to rebut this presumption, especially where significant risks associated with the claimant's work activity could have caused his accident.
Summary: The claimant worked as a boilermaker and fell from a 20-foot height. Urine samples obtained on the day of the accident were positive for the presence of marijuana metabolites in an abnormally high concentration. However, his coworkers testified that he did not appear to be intoxicated before the accident. The board said it was "constrained" to affirm the award of benefits to the claimant.
Although the State Insurance Fund presented some evidence that the claimant used marijuana prior to the accident, there was no dispute that he was attempting to weld a diffuser located 20 feet above the ground when he fell. Pointing to the fact the claimant was working at an elevated height, the board found there were other contributing factors to his injury.
Significantly, the claimant was not using a safety line or harness at the time of the accident. As such, the fund recognized the risks associated with this work activity and the possibility that the claimant could lose his balance and fall to the ground. Although there was circumstantial evidence that the claimant may have been intoxicated, the record was insufficient to establish the injury resulted solely from the claimant's intoxication.
April 20, 2009
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