Intoxication from employer-provided alcohol doesn't bar benefits
Evans v. Hendrick Automotive Group, No. COA12-122 (N.C. Ct. App. 12/31/12).
The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that a manager was entitled to temporary total disability benefits for her injuries.
What it means: In North Carolina, a worker is not barred from receiving compensation for an injury proximately caused by intoxication when the alcohol was supplied by the employer.
An office manager for a car dealership in Texas attended a four-day sales meeting at the employer's headquarters in North Carolina. The employer hosted a dinner at a restaurant that was within walking distance to the employer-paid hotel where the manager stayed. The employer provided alcoholic beverages before, during, and after dinner. The manager left the dining room after dinner and ordered a drink at the bar. She had one sip of the drink before heading back to the hotel with a group of managers. After they got onto an escalator, the manager climbed onto the railing. As she rode down, she struck a pillar and fell off the railing to the ground 30 feet below. She sustained head trauma and various other injuries requiring multiple surgeries. After returning to work, the manager was terminated. Four months later, she found another job with lower wages. She sought workers' compensation benefits. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to TTD benefits.
The employer asserted that she did not suffer a compensable injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment. The court explained that a traveling employee is within the course of employment when traveling back to her hotel. Also, a worker can be entitled to benefits for an injury caused by intoxication when the employer provided the alcohol. The court found that the manager's blood alcohol content showed a loss of inhibitory control and produced behavior that contributed to the occurrence of the accident. The court concluded that the intoxication was a proximate cause of her injury.
The court also found that the manager did not constructively refuse suitable employment when she was terminated. Her job performance issues that led to her termination were likely related to her injuries. The court also found that the manager was temporarily totally disabled.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 1, 2013
Copyright 2013© LRP Publications