An appellate court in Kentucky confirmed the State Employment Compensation Committee's decision to grant the employee compensation benefits to a man who was injured when he fell off a ladder, even though he tested positive for cocaine. R & T Acoustics v. Aguirre a three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals met unanimously on Friday that the employer failed to present sufficient evidence that the worker's injury was caused by his intoxication.
On December 18, 2014, Bernabe Aguirre worked for a contractor for the construction of a HH Gregg store when he fell off a ladder and maintained fractures to his ankle and foot. During his treatment, Aguirre left a urine sample for a drug test that showed a positive cocaine metabolite test. His employer denied his claim for benefits and argued that his injury was "almost caused by voluntary poisoning" and that, therefore, the Kentucky law was not compensatory for his injuries. Mr Aguirre said the extension steps "slipped" and made him fall; He did not answer questions about drug-related disabilities.
An administrative judge dismissed Mr Aguirre's assertion, referring to a doctor's opinion that the presence of cocaine in the Aguirre's body "could undermine its ability to perform its duties safely" and that "the presence of cocaine in the documented quantities could have has been a significant contributing factor in his injury ".
However, another doctor explained that it was not possible to determine whether Aguirre had recently taken cocaine or had done so the night before. Mr Aguirre appealed to his colleagues, who made the decision, claiming that doctors' testimony was not sufficient to support ALJ's finding of voluntary poisoning. The company requested a review and claimed that the board exceeded its authority by replacing ALJ.
The complaint court in Kentucky confirmed the decision and claimed that the burden was on the employer to prove the affirmative defense of intoxication. The appeal court found that ALJ failed to identify evidence in the record to establish that poisoning was the closest cause "primarily" that led to Aguirre's injury. Although the employer argued that, since Mr Aguirre did not offer any other explanation for his injury to invoke the evidence of poisoning, and that ALJ was therefore free to conclude that the injury was caused by the intoxication, the Court of Appeal considered that he had not stated that the Board had correctly concluded that the standard requires evidence that intoxication was the main cause of an injury.
The lawyers in the decision did not immediately submit inquiries.