Some workers’ compensation cases can be difficult to determine whether or not there are outside factors that contributed to the accident. For example, this unusual workers’ compensation case invovled the use of drugs by the employee:
Brock Hopkins of Montana was mauled by a bear on November 2, 2007 while working at Great Bear Adventures near West Glacier, Montana. That morning, when Hopkins stepped into the bears’ pen with food, one of the grizzly bears attacked him. Hopkins tried to flee and managed to escape by crawling under an electrified fence. The worker suffered severe injuries to his leg and was hospitalized.
The park’s owner, Russell Kilapatrick, contended that Hopkins’s usage of marijuana that morning caused the animal to attack.
Hopkins’s openly admitted to using marijuana that morning before work, but the court decided that this usage was not the ultimate cause of the bear attack. The judge wrote somewhat comically, “I cannot conclude based on the evidence before me that the major contributing cause of the grizzly bear attack was anything other than the grizzly. It is not as if this attack occurred when Hopkins inexplicably wandered into the grizzly pen while searching for the nearest White Castle. Hopkins was attacked while performing a job Kilpatrick paid him to do – feed grizzly bears.”
Like Montana, South Carolina employers can use intoxication, either by alcohol or controlled substances, as a defense to a workers’ compensation claim. The South Carolina court system has further ruled that the intoxication must be the proximate cause of the worker’s injuries. In this instance, proximate cause means that “but for” the worker’s intoxication, the injuries would not have occurred. If the bear attack had taken place in South Carolina, a judge would most likely have ruled in favor of the injured, Hopkins.
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