Case name: Creole Steel, Inc. v. Stewart, No. WCA 11-1285 (La. Ct. App. 03/07/12).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a worker was entitled to reimbursement for the medical marijuana he paid for out-of-pocket.
What it means: In Louisiana, an employer is required to reimburse a worker for the necessary medical expenses he paid for out-of-pocket.
Summary: A worker injured his cervical spine while working. On an office visit to his doctor, he tested positive for marijuana. The doctor warned the worker that he would no longer treat him if he continued to test positive. The worker explained to the doctor that using marijuana gave him some relief from his pain and improved his ability to sleep. Later, the doctor prescribed medical marijuana. The employer disputed the reasonable medical necessity of the prescription. After a trial, the workers' compensation judge concluded that the doctor could proceed with his recommendation that the worker use medical marijuana while investigating other treatment alternatives.
The worker sought penalties, attorney's fees, and reimbursement for the money he paid for the prescription. The Louisiana Court of Appeal ordered the employer to reimburse the worker for the amount he paid out-of-pocket for the prescription.
The court found the worker was not entitled to penalties and attorney's fees. A claims representative with the employer's insurance company indicated that she could not find literature that suggested that medical marijuana was used to treat injuries like the worker's. The representative also expressed concerns that the worker tested positive for marijuana when he went to visit the doctor. The doctor admitted that medical marijuana was not approved for treating musculoskeletal pain. Two other doctors recommended the use of long-lasting narcotics rather than medical marijuana.
The court found that the worker was entitled to reimbursement for the amount he spent obtaining the medical marijuana because the WCJ found it was a necessary medical expense.
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April 30, 2012
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