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Friday, August 23, 2013

NH Supreme Court outlines intoxication defense and other parameters of workers' comp claims

Today's post was shared by WCBlog and comes from

CONCORD, New Hampshire — The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that intoxication must be determined to be the cause of an accident for it to be a defense against a workers' compensation claim.

The court sent Thomas Phillips' case back to the state Compensation Appeals Board for a finding on whether his intoxication caused him to fall from a tree while cutting a branch and suffer injuries that left him a quadriplegic.

Phillips received a break in his rent from his landlords and next-door neighbors — Norman and Diane Crocker of Danville — in return for doing maintenance work around both houses.

When he was hospitalized after the 2006 fall, his blood alcohol content was 0.27, more than three times the legal limit to drive.

A Department of Labor hearing officer awarded Phillips benefits, but the Compensation Appeals Board reversed that ruling in 2010, saying Phillips was drunk. But the board failed to specifically say that Phillips' intoxication was the cause of his fall and injuries.

"The CAB may have erroneously believed that the petitioner's intoxication alone was the enough to deny him benefits," Justice James Bassett wrote, in the unanimous ruling released Wednesday. "Our concern on this score is heightened by the fact that there were no witnesses to the accident and that there was evidence the accident may have occurred as a result of the tree branch snapping while (Phillips) was attempting to cut it."

Phillips' lawyer, Michael Mortimer, declined to...

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