Smoking pot before feeding bears not prudent, but not fatal to claim
Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers' Fund, et al., No. 2010 MTWCC 9 (Mont. WCC 2010).
Ruling: The Montana Workers' Compensation Court found that the claimant was acting in the course and scope of his employment when he was attacked as he entered a bear pen to feed the bears. In addition, the employer failed to establish that the claimant's use of marijuana before arriving at the bear park was the major contributing cause of his injuries.
What it means:
Where the claimant worked around a bear park at the employer's request for several years, and credible evidence demonstrates that the employer paid him in cash for his services, the claimant is an employee for purposes of workers' compensation. Further, the employer's failure to present any evidence regarding the claimant's level of impairment due to marijuana usage undercuts its argument that the accident was caused by drug use.
Summary: A worker at a private bear park was attacked by a grizzly as he entered the pen to feed the bears. The employer claimed that the worker was a volunteer, not an employee, and worked around the park as a "favor" to the employer. It further contended that the worker's use of marijuana on the morning of the accident barred his receipt of workers' compensation benefits. The WCC found that the employer controlled the details of the claimant's work and paid him cash daily for the services he performed. Further, although the claimant's use of marijuana was "ill-advised to say the least and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the most," the WCC said, it was not the major contributing cause of the accident. "It was not as if this attack occurred when [the claimant] inexplicably wandered into the grizzly pen while searching for the nearest White Castle," the WCC concluded.
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August 30, 2010
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