The widow of a staff member of a staffing agency who died and was later found to have marijuana in her system can still collect compensation for survivors of workers because testimony indicated that there was no evidence that the worker was disabled, Kansas Supreme Court decided Friday.
Gary Woessner fell 15 feet while working on a workplace catwalk for "no apparent reason" and died of his injuries six months later, according to documents in Gary L. Woessner, deceased v. Labor Max Staffing and XL Specialty Insurance Co., filed in Topeka.
Mr. Woessner's employer, Labor Max Staffing, accepted his claim but stopped paying benefits after his death, arguing that marijuana caused his death, according to documents.
Under Kansas law, the employer is not liable when marijuana consumption is found to contribute to an employee's work-related injury, yet the employer must provide "clear and convincing evidence" that the drug caused a deterioration that led to an accident. Mr Woessner's marijuana drug test was "well above the statutory level" to trigger the assumption that drugs caused his fall, according to documents.
Not only did the parties disagree as to whether the results of the drug test were permissible and questioned their handling, but they also disagreed as to whether Woessner's positive drug test was related to his accident.
A colleague testified that Mr. Woessner "was a meticulous worker" and that he "observed the plaintiff just before his accident and he did not notice the plaintiff acting differently than he normally did." The colleague "was asked if the applicant showed several signs of using marijuana and answered in the negative", according to documents.
In the end, an appellate court ruled that the test results were admissible and held the record "insufficient regarding … the finding that Woessner's disability did not contribute to the accident for meaningful review of the appeal", so the Board of Appeal took the matter to further proceedings. [1