Bizarre Workers’ Comp Case

  • By:dialassociates
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Back in 2013, a case was presented where a worker’s injuries were caused by his intoxication and not by the concrete slab he fell on.

The Longshore Act provides that no compensation shall be payable if the injury “was occasioned solely by the intoxication of the employee” [33 U.S.C.S. § 903(c)]. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied review of a Benefits Review Board decision that in turn had denied benefits to a longshore worker who, prior to and during his work day, consumed a substantial amount of alcohol, decided to relieve himself over the bull rail of his employer’s facility and, while doing so, fell over the rail onto a concrete and steel ledge approximately six feet below, sustaining injuries. The worker contended that because he hit the concrete surface rather than the river or a featherbed, his injury was not solely caused by intoxication. In other words, his “accident” may have been caused by intoxication, but the injury., the harmful physical consequences of the fall, was caused by hitting the concrete and metal slab.

The Ninth Circuit panel disagreed. Noting that following the incident, the worker was transported to a hospital where tests revealed he had a blood alcohol level of .25 (more than three times the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle) and that he also tested positive for cannabis ingestion, the panel held that “occasioned solely by” intoxication meant that the “legal cause” of the injury was intoxication, regardless of the surface material of the landing on which the intoxicated person fell.

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