Marijuana in worker's system bars compensability for hand injury
Townley v. Georgia Pacific Corp., No. CA 11-797 (Ark. Ct. App. 01/11/12).
The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that a worker's hand injury was not compensable.
What it means: In Arkansas, even the slight presence of illegal drugs in a worker's system is sufficient to raise the rebuttable presumption that an injury was substantially occasioned by the use of drugs.
Summary: A worker operated a machine that embossed and perforated toilet paper. After a brief safety meeting about the prevention of hand injuries, the worker attempted to get paper off the machine. He hit a button on his machine and his hand became caught. He sustained a fracture with two broken fingers. His employer administered a drug test, which revealed that the worker had marijuana in his system. The Arkansas Court of Appeals held that the worker was not entitled to benefits.
The worker admitted that he smoked marijuana two days before the accident. The supervisor said that at the safety meeting, he couldn't tell whether the worker was impaired. The human resources manager said that after the injury, the worker appeared sleepy and disoriented, and he had incoherent speech.
The worker argued that his injury was caused by "defective equipment" and the absence of safety features on the machine. The worker's supervisor said that employees were expected to keep their hands away from moving parts on the machine. The safety leader also said that there was no reason for the worker to put his hand in the machine. The court rejected the worker's argument.
The worker also asserted that his drug test should have been reported as negative because the amount of marijuana in his system was below the cutoff levels used by the Department of Transportation. The court disagreed, stating that the mere presence of an illegal drug in a worker's system is enough to trigger the rebuttable presumption that an injury was substantially occasioned by the use of drugs. The court noted that the worker did not bring witnesses to testify that he was not impaired immediately before the accident occurred.
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February 16, 2012
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