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Friday, March 25, 2011

Grizzly Bear Attack Does Not Deter Benefits Even Though Employee Was Using Marjuana

The Montana Supreme Court ordered the Uninsured Fund to pay workers' compensation benefits to an employee who was mauled by an grizzly bear even, though the worker was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident.

The Court held that the marjuana was not a major contributing cause of the employee's injuries.

"Non-prescription drug consumption will preclude an injured employee’s benefits if consumption was the leading cause contributing to the result, when compared to all othersSection 39-71-407(4), and -407(13), MCA. No evidence was presented regarding Hopkins’ level of impairment. The WCC [Workers' Compensation Court] aptly noted, “Hopkins’ use of marijuana to kick off a day of working around grizzly bears was ill-advised to say the least and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the most.” However, the WCC further noted that grizzlies are “equal opportunity maulers,” without regard to marijuana consumption. Without evidence of Hopkins’ level of impairment, the WCC correctly concluded that marijuana was not the major contributing cause of Hopkins’ injuries."

The majority of states permit the payment of workers' compensation benefits where the use  was not the sole cause of the accident. Usually Uninsured Funds are able to obtain reimbursement directly for the employer who failed to carry workers' compensation benefits.

Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers Fund, et al., Docket 2011 MT 49 (MT 2011) Decided March 22, 2011