Why it was a mistake for company to appeal workers’ comp for employee on drugs

It might seem like a no-brainer to cut your workers’ comp premiums: If an employee injured on the job tests positive for drugs, you should contest benefits, right? Not necessarily.

In this case, an employee was injured at work. While undergoing treatment at a hospital, his blood was tested for drugs. The test showed him positive for methadone, a drug used to treat narcotic withdrawal and dependence.

The employee showed that he had a prescription for methadone. However, after further investigation, it was shown that he faked drug dependence to get the methadone illegally. He wanted the methadone for pain relief.

The company denied the employee workers’ comp benefits. The employee appealed to the state workers’ comp board.

The board said the company failed to show that the worker’s drug used caused the accident and ruled he should receive benefits. An appeals court later upheld the ruling.

The state’s workers’ comp law says: “No compensation shall be awarded to the employee … for an injury … caused by … the employee’s use of a nonprescribed controlled substance.”

The important part of that sentence: caused by. In this case, a machine fell on the worker through no fault of his own.

Result: The company ended up paying him comp and, on top of that, attorneys’ fees for contesting the award of benefits.

Cite: Dominion Coal Corp. v. Bowman, Court of Appeals of VA, No. 0628-08-3, 2/10/09.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *