Cocaine use doesn't block death benefits for driver killed in fire
Dallas National Insurance Co. v. Lewis, No. 01-10-00528-CV (Tex. Ct. App. 06/16/11).
The Texas Court of Appeals held that a worker was not intoxicated at the time of his death and awarded death benefits.
What it means: In Texas, nonexpert witnesses can testify as to whether a worker appeared to be intoxicated or impaired before his accident.
Summary: A shuttle bus driver for two hotels died when the bus he was driving caught fire. The hotel's insurer denied the claim for death benefits based on the allegation that he was intoxicated from the use of cocaine at the time of his death. A coworker said that she spoke to the worker throughout the night and shortly before the fire and said there was "nothing abnormal" about his physical abilities. The coworker also observed the worker's driving that night. A medical examiner's report indicated that the worker was positive on cocaine. The Texas Court of Appeals held that the worker was not intoxicated at the time of his death and awarded death benefits.
The court explained that in determining whether the worker lost the normal use of his physical or mental faculties to show intoxication nonexperts are permitted to testify as to whether a worker acted normally. The coworker said that the worker was alert and possessed the normal use of his physical and mental faculties at the time of his death. The coworker's testimony was not irrelevant even though she did not observe the worker at the exact minute of his death.
A doctor said that the small amount of cocaine in the worker's system was consistent with the coworker's observations that the worker exhibited normal behavior. The doctor could not determine when the worker ingested the cocaine, how much he used, or how it affected him.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 15, 2011
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