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Court rules failed drug test does not affect workers’ comp

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2019 | Workers' Compensation |

For injured Oklahoma workers, a recent court ruling may give them more access to care, even if they test positive for drugs. According to The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals recently ruled an injured worker should not be denied workers’ compensation benefits because he failed a drug test.

His hand was injured trying to repair a machine

Dillon Rose was working at Berry Plastics Corp. in 2017. He was attempting to fix a “guillotine machine,” when a coworker turned the machine on. Rose’s hand was crushed.

After his injury, a drug test showed he had used marijuana. When he filed a workers’ compensation claim, Rose had to convince the court his failed drug test did not lead to his accident.

Rose admitted smoking marijuana, but said he was not high

Rose confirmed to the court he had smoked marijuana the night before. When the accident occurred, he told the judge he was clearheaded and no longer intoxicated. Rose’s coworkers testified he did not appear intoxicated at work.

Workers’ compensation commission denied his benefits

An administrative law judge agreed with Rose and ruled he was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. The judge stated his employer presented no evidence showing he was intoxicated at the time of the accident. However, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission overturned the ruling, denied his benefits and called Rose’s testimony self-serving.

Court ruled presence of a drug does not prove intoxication

Rose filed an appeal and won. The appeals court stated having a drug in a person’s blood does not mean the person is intoxicated.

Oklahoma recently legalized medicinal marijuana. Since June, more than 13,000 residents have been granted medical marijuana licenses.

The appeals court also stated if Rose was prescribed marijuana by his doctor, he would have it in his system, and it still would not have proven intoxication. The court chastised the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission for making a leap about a causal connection between the presence of marijuana in his blood and his accident.

This case may set a precedent for how future workers’ compensation claims are treated in Oklahoma.