The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld an award of wrongful-death damages to the young son of a miner killed in an after-hours accident.
Black Rock Services operates a mine where Steve Justice, who lived on site, worked as a plant operator. Mr. Justice was killed at the mine after hours when, on his way to shut down a generator, he got stuck between his truck and the generator trailer, according to Justice against Black Rock Servicesfiled in Albuquerque.
A workers’ compensation judge found that Mr. Justice’s death was compensable and benefits were awarded to his son. In reaching this conclusion, the judge invoked the “bunkhouse” rule and the exceptions to the “come and go”; rule.
The commuting rule generally excludes compensation for injuries sustained on the way to work or on the way home from work. However, under the bunkhouse rule, an injury may be established to have arisen out of and occurred in the course of employment if, having regard to the nature of the employment environment and available accommodations, it was contemplated that the claimant would use the employer’s bunkhouse or other on-site sleeping facilities.
The judge also found that Mr. Justice’s use of methamphetamine did not impede recovery, according to the ruling.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals said the mine’s challenges were procedurally deficient.
Specifically, the Mine failed to preserve its hearsay claims regarding the testimony. The court also said New Mexico law prohibits the reduction or denial of death benefits to qualified dependents because of a worker’s intoxication.
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