Employer loses bid to show accident was caused by worker's intoxication
Case name: McKinley v. Klein Steel, Inc., No. 09-CA-930 (La. Ct. App. 03/23/10).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld an award of temporary total disability benefits, attorney's fees, and penalties.
What it means: The presumption that an employee's injury was caused by his intoxication does not arise where no drug test is offered to him. Additionally, to establish that an employee made false statements, the employer must show that the statements were false, willful, and made for the purpose of obtaining benefits.
Summary: While carrying a stair railing at work, the employee stumbled and hit his head. The employer sent him to a nearby hospital. He correctly identified his employer but provided incorrect contact information to hospital staff. He was treated for a scalp laceration and released without being administered a drug test. When he confirmed that he had not been drug tested at the hospital, the employer made no effort to have him tested. He later underwent two spinal surgeries as a result of the accident. The employer's insurer refused to pay workers' compensation benefits, claiming that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the accident, refused a drug test, and provided false information to hospital personnel. The Court of Appeals upheld the award of benefits, finding that the employer failed to reasonably controvert the claim. It also awarded the employee penalties and attorney's fees.
The court explained that a presumption of intoxication arises when the employee affirmatively refuses a drug test. Because the hospital never offered a drug test, there was no opportunity for the employee to refuse one nor was any other evidence of intoxication presented.
The court also rejected the employer's contention that the employee gave false information to hospital personnel to prevent the hospital from verifying his workers' compensation status. The employee provided the same contact name and number for the employer as he had on previous hospital visits, unaware that the individual no longer worked for the employer.
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May 24, 2010
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