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Work-related case was deemed not eligible for compensation due to positive drug test



A Mississippi appeals court found Tuesday that a steelworker with marijuana in his system did not suffer a compensable on-the-job fall under the assumption that the drug caused his accident.

While working as a steel connector/iron worker for Cheyenne Steel Inc., Miles Meek tripped and fell 20 feet from a beam in 2018, hitting a man-lift on the way down and suffering what was a “recognized injury during the course and scope of his employment”, according to Miles Meek v. Cheyenne Steel Inc. and American Interstate Insurance Company, filed in the Mississippi Court of Appeals.

Mr. Meek, who injured his shoulder, hip and back, was temporarily disabled until late 201

9, when he reached maximum medical improvement. He was eventually awarded a 2% reduction in value, which he claimed was incorrect.

A drug test taken in the emergency room after the accident showed he had marijuana in his system, which the company said it didn’t discover until two years after the accident.

Despite paying benefits, Cheyenne argued in court the nature and extent of the injuries and disability and pleaded intoxication as an affirmative defense to the claim.

Mr. Meek argued before an administrative law judge that Cheyenne should have been precluded from invoking intoxication as an affirmative defense “because the submitted drug test results did not contain sufficient data to assume that his marijuana use was the proximate cause of his injury.”

In 2021, the judge found that Meek had failed to rebut the presumption of intoxication and denied and dismissed his claim. The full commission remanded the case to determine whether the claim was allowed because Cheyenne had paid benefits and whether the injury fell under the presumption of intoxication and, if so, whether he rebutted the presumption.

In response, the judge made no findings on the issue of intoxication but determined that because Cheyenne admitted the injury occurred and paid benefits, the only issues to be determined were industrial loss of use and permanent disability.

Later in the year, the full commission reversed that order, finding that Mr. Meek’s intoxication was the “proximate cause of the injury” and negated his claim.

The appeals court agreed, writing that the law “clearly states that if a drug test shows the “presence, at the time of the injury from drugs used illegally. . . it shall be presumed that the proximate cause of the injury was the illegal use of narcotics.’

“Marijuana … was illegal at the time of Meek’s accident and there was no mechanism by which he could have legally ingested it.”


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