A worker tests positive for PCP right after he’s injured. Is he still able to collect workers’ comp benefits?
As this case shows, it’s sometimes a matter of who the workers’ comp commission decides to believe.
Carl Johnson, a truck driver, was lifting 80-pound boxes when he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and lower back.
After reporting the injury to his employer, he was drug tested the same day. He tested positive for PCP, also known as angel dust, a hallucinogenic.
Johnson claimed he didn’t use PCP and that he wasn’t impaired at work on the day of his injury.
Arkansas state law says comp can be denied when there is a positive drug test. However, if the worker can prove the drug use didn’t substantially cause the injury, comp can be awarded.
When the case was first heard, an administrative law judge found there was no evidence presented that Johnson appeared impaired.
Is worker’s word enough?
However, when the Workers’ Compensation Commission took up the case, it disagreed. The commission said it was up to Johnson to prove that he wasn’t impaired, and he presented no testimony other than his own to prove that.
He didn’t call on co-workers or customers to testify that he wasn’t impaired the day he was injured.
Johnson took the commission’s decision to the state appeals court.
The court said the burden to prove the PCP in his system didn’t cause his injury was on Johnson.
The court noted, “While Johnson’s testimony about his lifting injury might begin to carry this burden if credited 100%, the Commission was not required to believe him.”
Because the commission didn’t believe Johnson’s testimony, the court upheld the commission’s decision: Comp denied.
However, had the commission found reason to believe that Johnson wasn’t impaired by the drug use, he would have received comp payments.
How should cases where an injured worker tests positive for drug use be handled? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.
Cite: Johnson v. U.S. Food Service, Inc., AR Court of Appeals, No. CA09-851, 1/6/10.