Drug use doesn't strip workers' comp system of jurisdiction over claim
Hickey v. Gardisser d/b/a Gardisser Construction, No. CA10-98 (Ark. Ct. App. 06/02/10).
Ruling: The Arkansas Court of Appeals dismissed an employee's negligence suit against his employer. The Workers' Compensation Commission has jurisdiction over the matter.
What it means: Although Arkansas law states that an accident that was "substantially occasioned by the use of drugs" is not a compensable injury, this rule does not take a case involving drug use outside the workers' compensation system. A worker cannot sue his employer in court merely because his accident involved drug use.
Summary: A construction worker fell off a metal roof and sustained a serious injury. He was transported to the hospital for surgery. Before he was released, a drug test was administered and it returned positive for methamphetamine. The worker filed a workers' compensation claim and while the claim was pending, sued the employer for negligence. The employer moved to dismiss the lawsuit and argued that the workers' compensation claim provided the worker's exclusive remedies. The court granted the motion, finding that the Workers' Compensation Commission retained jurisdiction of his benefits claim.
The worker argued that his injury was outside the coverage of the Workers' Compensation Act and there was no remedy available under the act. The court rejected his argument and found that the commission retained jurisdiction over cases involving drug use. In such cases, the burden of proof shifts to the employee to rebut the presumption that the injury was caused by the illegal drug use. The worker did have a remedy available under the act, but he failed to overcome his burden of proof.
The court also pointed out that if it found it had jurisdiction, there would be a multitude of negligence cases filed from claimants who lost their cases before the commission.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 26, 2010
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