Romero v. Louisiana Commerce and Trade Assoc., No. 11-1533 (La. Ct. App. 07/13/12).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a driver was not entitled to benefits because his injury was caused by his intoxication.
What it means: In Louisiana, an employer does not have to pay workers' compensation benefits if the injury was caused by the worker's intoxication. After the employer proves intoxication, the worker has the burden of showing that the intoxication was not a cause of the accident.
Summary: A truck driver arrived at a jobsite to pick up a load. Another truck was in the loading area, so he parked on the two-lane roadway. He saw a pickup truck on the roadway and thought it was his supervisor. He retrieved an empty oil container and opened his door to begin stepping out of his truck. The driver of the pickup truck, who was not the driver's supervisor, swerved to avoid hitting the door when it suddenly opened, but he was unsuccessful. The driver was thrown to the asphalt and injured. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance. In the hospital, he submitted a urine sample for drug testing. The test results were positive for marijuana metabolites. His employer paid for his initial emergency room visit but refused to pay further workers' compensation benefits. The driver sought benefits. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that he was not entitled to benefits.
The court found that the driver failed to rebut the presumption of intoxication. A physician opined that the driver's level of marijuana metabolites indicated the use of marijuana within one week. The driver said that he smoked marijuana within a month of the accident, but his level of marijuana metabolites was not consistent with his testimony.
The court pointed out that the driver did not present evidence of anyone who saw him before the accident to testify that he was not impaired. The driver's "inattention and poor judgment were a result of his intoxication."
A dissenting judge opined that the driver rebutted that intoxication caused the accident. The judge said it was "a stretch to say that smoking marijuana one week prior to the accident was the underlying causative factor."
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October 1, 2012
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