Safety and OSHA News

Pot-smoking worker mauled by grizzly: Does he get comp?

Bear

A worker at a bear park smoked pot before coming to work where he fed grizzlies. The worker was seriously injured by one of the bears. A workers’ compensation judge called that “mind-bogglingly stupid.” But did the judge rule the worker was entitled to workers’ comp?

Montana’s comp law says: “An employee is not eligible for benefits otherwise payable under this chapter if the employee’s use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician is the major contributing cause of the accident.”

Here’s what happened in this case:

Employee Brock Hopkins entered a pen at Great Bear Adventures in West Glacier, MT, to feed grizzlies. He was attacked by one of the bears and escaped by crawling under an electrified fence. He suffered severe injuries.

Hopkins admits he smoked marijuana that day. (Changed from original version to clarify that the defendant smoked marijuana on the day of the incident.)

His employer presented no evidence about his level of impairment on the day of the attack.

Hopkins sought workers’ comp benefits for his injuries but was initially denied on the grounds that his use of marijuana was the major contributing cause of the accident. Hopkins appealed to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Court.

Here’s what the judge wrote: “When it comes to attacking humans, grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers, attacking without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or marijuana usage. Hopkins’ use of marijuana to kick off a day of working around grizzly bears was ill advised to say the least and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the most.”

The judge noted that, while using pot before interacting with bears may have been stupid, there was no evidence presented to conclude that Hopkins’ pot use was the major cause of the incident.

The decision: Hopkins was entitled to workers’ comp benefits.

What do you think about the judge’s decision in this case? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers’ Fund, Workers’ Compensation Court of MT, No. 2008-2152, 5/4/10.

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Comments

  1. Mind-bogglingly stupid is the understatement of the year. But the judge was correct in the fact that the bear had no idea if this man was under the influance or not, and most likely would have attacked him no matter what the condition’s. If this man felt comfortable enough to smoke pot and go to work I would advise a new drug free enforcement policy.

  2. The judge may have ruled correctly, but not for that reason. An animal’s senses are far more sensitive to changes in a person’s smell or even energies (take the Dog Whisperer for example). Even if this wasn’t the case and the bear didn’t get a different “vibe” from the man that normally feeds him, the effects of being under the influence more than likely changed the level of attention/focus of the employee and made him lax and not aware of the potential threat. The company only has itself to blame for assuming the case was “open & shut.” Presenting evidence regarding level of impairment would have validated either of the scenarios I mentioned and kept them from paying this knucklehead who got what he deserved.

  3. richard bower says:

    When it comes to workers comp there are very few advantages for the employer. The fact that the man was entitled to wc benefits after smoking illegal drugs speaks volumes to our inability or unwillingness to enforce laws already on the books. He not only shouldn’t receive wc benefits but he should serve jail time. For the employer, they need to make sure that drug screening is reinforced.

  4. “there was no evidence presented to conclude that Hopkins’ pot use was the major cause of the incident.” Did the judge mean that no one said how much was smoked, so therefore how much of the employees judgement was compromised. Get real people if this indiviual was out driving and had a wreck and injured himself and others would you say it was the cars fault? What has happened to common sense!!

  5. New policy: Give the grizzlies a few bong hits, they’ll become passive and non-aggressive ,get the munchies,then you feed them, problem solved…next!

  6. I disagree as he may have put himself in harms way due to his impairment therefor his judgement was effected by the usage.. If he did not use before his shift he may have been thinking more clearly..

  7. Who’s to say the bear didn’t attack the man because of the smell of marijuana on him? Mind-bogglingly stupid is right. But all insurance plans are for the mind-bogglingly stupid things we do and then need money to correct. I don’t agree with granting him workers’ compensation if he was under the influence of an illegal substance, though, regardless if the employer can prove it caused the bear to attack or not. If the man hadn’t been under the influence, he might have been more careful, might have been more alert to the bear’s irritability, might have gotten away quicker. Who’s to say? But don’t penalize the employer.

  8. As Mel stated accurately – comp must be paid, however if this were to occur on my watch we would have investigated it to the ‘n’th’ degree using CCTV, Interviews, statements, proof of training, etc. etc. and ‘if’ warranted would have presented information to show the impairment of the marijuana was in fact the sole reason his judgment was impaired to circumvent whatever safety protocol he did that resulted in the injury. The information provided was too limited but I would hope (and am presuming for the purpose of this reply) that the employer has adequate safety protection, procedures, etc. that ‘If Followed’ would ensure something like this simply cannot occur. If they do not, then this worker deserves w/comp and probably litigation for his employer’s non-compliance w/General Duty Clause~ (Just one man’s opinion as an investigator).

  9. Bear was PO’ed that he didn’t share the blunt!

  10. Are you kidding, Smoking pot is not only stupid its elegale. And doing so before going to work he put his self in harms way and could have hurt some one else to. I sure dont want tot be around any one thats been smoking pot were I work for the safty of everyone

  11. I am a firm believer, what people do on their own time away from work is there business, but should never come to work under the imfluence. Believe the judge was fair in this case and only delt with the facts at hand. Marijuana should be legalized anyway..

  12. The question is not if the bear was partial to pot smokers or not, but if the worker was in fact impared from his pot usage, and if that might of contributed to 1) inattentiveness to the bears actions or 2) did something he should not of. The article mentioned that the employeer “could present no evidence”, so it’s hard to tell if it was a contributing factor.

  13. Was the Judge also smoking dope? There was was clear “An employee is not eligible for benefits otherwise payable under this chapter if the employee’s use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician is the major contributing cause of the accident.” – Does marijuana not cause impairment?
    “Hopkins admits he smoked marijuana”, Level of impairment, shold not matter…he was under the influence period!

  14. Chuck C says:

    For a short time, Ohio had a rule in place that required the injured worker to prove that the drugs or alcohol did not contribute to the cause of the injury. However, the rule was removed and the burden of proof of the alcohol or durgs contributing to the cause, was given back to the employer.

    Had the injured worker smoked pot the day or week before the incident, the substance would not have likely contributed to him being injured. But this worker admitted to that day. Hopefully, the company has a drug policy in affect and this fellow was fired for substance abuse.

    The judge ignored the fact that the employee’s judgement was impared and/or his conduct was altered which probably caused the bear to be frightened.

  15. The judge must also have been smoking before he went to work. C’mon any level of impairment in a high risk job is cause to determine impairment. Iron workers on the skyscrapers have a reputation for working high risk but the work itself doesn’t have the ability to attack unless you consider the elements. When ever nature is involved you better know what you are doing and have the ability to read the signs. That fellow certainly wasn’t impaired when he ran under the electric fence. I think the great state of Montana let the man sweat it out before awarding workers comp and the fellow recieved the state’s sympathy ruling since a mauling can be such a horrible thing to recover from. With safety issues it is not the 999 times things go correctly that you practice it. It is for the one time that a thing can go wrong.

  16. Another case in which Worker’s Comp tried to deny a claim using loop holes, etc. Yes the man was ignorant for his drug use, especially before working in an enviornment such as feeding bears; regardless a bear does not discriminate when attacking. He should be compensated for his injuries. His employer should enforce a drug policy.

  17. The gentleman featured in this story, Mr Hopkins, was, to say the least, horrendously idiotic that morning and I couldn’t agree more with the Judge’s decision and comments. Sadly, there is no way to prove that Hopkins pot use was THE major contributing factor in the attack.

    While most people likely know, pot doesn’t in and of itself cause the “too-stupid-for-Hollywood to actually consider” behavior displayed by Mr. Hopkins.

    It does not, however, help one’s judgment to be sound or make one faster on his/her feet.

    Neither does pot make one a bad member of society. although it IS illegal.
    Driving under the influence of alcohol is also illegal, but when they passed legislation making it officially and enforceably criminal, it didn’t reduce the number of cases prosecuted, did it?

    Mr. Hopkins paid a very, very dear price and I’m certain his injuries are severe. This is not punishment for his use of pot. It is an animal attack. Nothing more, nothing less. This is true in spite of the religious right, certain to be claiming this as a sign from God himself and his disdain for folks smoking pot.

    Best wishes to you, Mr Hopkins, for a speedy and thorough healing….

    Nemo

  18. Stupid is as stupid does. Drugs and employment do not go together no matter what the scenerio. The same question could (and should) be asked about employees who regularly subject themselves to other hazards while under the influence.

    I agree with Mel in that the employer needs to take a hard look at thier drug free program (if any).

    I disagree with any state that protects employees from the ilegal acts of unprescribed/recreational drug use by awarding WC to employees who obviously should not have beeen in the workplace and have created multiple hazards for themselves and others just by showing up under the influence.

  19. I don’t have any grizzly-feeding experience but I feel sure that a certain awareness of the bears’ mood and actions would be a necessary part of this guy’s job. I think it is extremely likely that a pot smoker’s acuity would be impaired by his marijuana use. Maybe if the company had taken the opportunity to explain this in the hearing, that might have been sufficient evidence of impairment.

  20. According to the story, his pot smoking was on the previous day, not the morning of the attack as stated by the judge. Pot smoking on the day before would have little or no effect on his actions on the following day. Even if the smoking was on that morning, the judge ruled correctly.

  21. I disagree with the judges decision. The use of marijuana effects a persons response time, ability to think and react clearly and to foresee and prevent an accident or incident from happening. Trained and educated people know that when working with wild animals you have to have all of your faculties and wits about you at all times……..and marijuana use takes this advantage / ability away. It is time for judges to wake up and place accountability where it belongs and in this case the accountability is on Mr. Hopkins. Mr. Hopkins and only Mr. Hopkins is to blame. Not a wild bear. Judges need to open their eyes and stop handing down rulings like this. A poor message has been sent and it is time to stop.

  22. I disagree. Pot impairs judgement, that has been proven. If the employee wasn’t impaired, he may not have put himself in a position to be mauled. I think he was awarded compensation in error. The piece the judge missed by placing the blame on the bear rather than the employee is the under the influence piece. Kind of like the sharp corner caused the accident… not the drunk driver missing the turn??

  23. You would think there would be PPE required to feed bears or at the very least a barrier.

  24. I agree with the ruling…and I don’t necessary agree with the note concerning “ones smell”. If the was the case I could pursue the same “angle” with some of my co-workers.

    cc

  25. Weedless says:

    Confirms my theory: When you’re stupid your whole body suffers. There’s always going to be someone who reminds us that Darwin was right.

  26. I’m from Montana and the verdict didn’t suprise me since the company didn’t try to show any impairment of the worker and since we didn’t hear the employers side of this we will never know. The judge was right on his statements, but we pay for stupid also.

  27. pot = mind altering substance = impaired judgement = nuf said.

    The judge was wrong. Admitted drug use that results in performing an act that results in injury to anyone (even yourself) should not result in a compensible action. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and it is wrong to blame the bear since it was a known hazard. Any action by a supposedly sentient person in a position of responsibility that results in their own injury, is still their responsibility.

  28. The judge is mind boggling stupid in this case. You don’t suppose the employee would have reacted different if he wasn’t high? This is the problem with our court system today. The Judge probably partakes as well.

  29. Eilleen says:

    If I smoke pot and then forget to lock up my garage and my tools get stolen- are they still insured? If I smoke pot (got drunk) and…wreck my car…am I still insured? Fall and break my arm…fill in the blank.

    I understand the anger at someone being irresponsible, but how can someone say he got what he deserved? And shouldn’t be insured? You smoked marijuana so you should get mauled by and bear and lose your insurance coverage. That’s a weird penalty.

  30. **********************
    Jon,

    I had mis-read the article as well. The line as a direct quote is:
    “Hopkins admits he smoked marijuana that day before entering the bear pen.”

    He had smoked the same day he was attacked.

    **********************
    To Keith, Amy, Ed, Kim and others:

    Once I read your comments, I re-read the entire article and I must say, I stand corrected.
    You all raise very valid points, not least among them, that of personal responsibility, a trait that, in my opinion, has gone adrift in today’s society. You folks give me, for one, faith that that there are still those among us that maintain common sense and some degree of self-discipline. Not an easy task these days.

    Thank you all for the reminder and education.

    Kind regards
    Nemo

  31. I agree with Keith’s rendition or opinion (amongst a few others). I’m actually comparing this horrific mauling to that of an alcohol or drug induced accident on the way to work. What if a person was on his/her commute to work and they drank a six-pack and were over the legal limit of .08? If this person’s judgment was blurred and they missed a sharp curve, ran off the road and critically or fatally wounded another person or family or caused a severe accident with a bus-load of students or any other scenario…? Does that mean the judge would rule that the individual was unaware of the curve and it was the sole cause of the accident? The alcohol or drugs were not a major contributor to the preventable accident? Crazy! I have sympathy for Mr. Hopkins but stupidity should be a clause in this case and he should be more than fortunate, quite embarrassed and look to God for thankfulness. He obviously needs help and perhaps is a frequent user of marijuana and the only way an employer could prove anything is if they drug-tested the employees every day before they go out into “their” high risk line of work. If they test positive and the employer lets them go out anyway, then they should be responsible for paying w.c. benefits. There will be a whole slew of opinions on this one and no one is right….they are just opinions.

  32. “Great Bear Adventures” indeed.

    The confinement of unpredictable wild animals for public entertainment, as just about as stupid as getting high before feeding them.

    Maybe the Bear was high, and saw the idiot as a cheeseburger.

  33. MARK SILVERIA says:

    Half of the world or more smoke pot. That is why it is being legalized slowly but surely. I think bears attack for whatever reason and not based on morals of any kind. If I were working with Bears I don’t think I would be intoxicated in anyway.
    The judge did make the right decision.

  34. If you get a chance , click on the link and read the entire case, it really is a comedy of error’s. It seem’s the employer was uninsured, he had several people doing various jobs around the place but it was strictly “Voluntary ” and everyday he would pay them 80-160 in cash daily, not as pay but just because he was a nice guy and it was out of the kindness of his heart. But my favorite part of the read was in the judges Decision , it reads , and I quote ” It is not as if this attack occurred when Hopkins inexplicably wandered into the grizzly pen while searching for the nearest White Castle. Hopkins was attacked while performing a job Kilpatrick had paid him to do — feeding grizzly bears.”

  35. I disagree with the decision. The use of drugs before entering a bear pen more then likely impaired his judgment and motor skills. Therefore the bear could have sensed that was more prone to attack him versus anyone else who was sober. Laws are laws. The use of drugs or alcohol on or before the job should not be tolerated. Therefore his claim should have been denied. This just opens another door for people that abuse the system.

  36. RockyWaters says:

    The story says he was under the influence of pot on that day.
    He’s a pot smoker.
    He probably smokes pot every chance (waking moment) he gets.
    Most likely, he’s under the influence of pot every day of his life.
    What made this day any different?
    He should “win” comp and “lose” his job.
    His company needs to develop a better drug program including periodic and random testing.

  37. Phil in Orlando says:

    This is one reason I am against making pot legal… Pot effects your judgement!!!
    You do stupid things when you are stoned. Perhaps the bear could tell the worker was high by the funny way he was acting, or, perhaps the worker skipped some safety routine because he was high.
    I used to be a stoner (20 years ago) and believe me when I say you do (plain and simply) dumb things when you are stoned.
    “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” was something we often said after some bone-head thing we did. Most of the time it was “funny” but, as we see here, it can sometimes be tragic.

  38. Rocky waters statement is correct in that a user tends to use on a regular basis. Marijuana stays in your system for months. Although the initial “high” is not long lasting, it continues to affect the individual, especially a regular user, to some extent for days. Even a couple of beers will have cause some impairment the following day. The employee had been “rolling the dice” since day one if he is a cronic user, (no pun intended). If the employer had an affective “no tolerance” drug policy in place, the employee would be terminated and left to his own for medical bills.
    They won’t put the bear down for this will they??

  39. I agree with Rocky. Any body who decides to “wake and bake” is not doing it for the first time. He is more than likely doing it very regularly. No one can presume the motives of the bear, and perhaps if he didn’t smell like pot, the bear would have attacked. The judge was correct in his decision. The company’s operations seem to be questionable and lax. The company certainly needs a better drug policy, or just a drug policy – period.

  40. Maybe this guy will find the Lord through all this! That would solve the majority of his problems, then God will take care of the rest:)
    I used to be a pot head amungst other bad addictions, guess what, life is GREAT now.
    I will pray for this guy.

  41. There is not enough detail here to decide either way. Presumably the judge had the details. Was the employee following normal procedure or did he do something that he was trained not to do? That would make a huge difference. If the guy was so “stoned” that he went into the cage unprotected and normally that was not allowed under procedural guidelines then, no the guy probably doesn’t deserve compensation, or his job for that matter.

  42. His marijuana use was the day before! Therefore, this would have no effect on his job performance that day. I am a Safety Manager for a huge Construction Company who has a full-blown drug policy in effect. It is a fact that the marijuana “effects” would have worn off by the following day. The judge was also correct in the fact that the bear is going to be impartial to the attack because of his use. Look at the many people who are attacked by “wild” animals that are kept in captivity. When working in a field like this, it is a risk that is taken. In a situation like this, the man in fully intitled to WC.

  43. Chad Michael says:

    Once again the justice system stinks! This baloney about was he, or was he not impaired by admittedly using an illegal substance prior to reporting to work. If he did then he should be on his own without support for doing “STUPID”! Society continues to tolerate these incompetent Judges and Lawyers why, why, why? Because we cannot fix it but the people we elect can & should! Why do governing bodies always go after the companies when a worker is injured due to stupidity! You can talk till you are blue in the face about safety, and provide the necessary safety equipment and training, but you simply cannot fix STUPID!

    How many convictions of DUI does it take to eliminate the drunk driver before they eliminate a loved one of their own or worse yet, someone not related at all? Whatever happened to three strikes your out? Whatever happened to having the penalty fit the crime? We are in deep trouble America and it’s only getting worse! Why pay room and board for life sentences when a bullet is so cheap. Think about how much money is wasted on these habitual criminals? It is out of control and the justice sytem needs to be overhauled.

  44. I think the company should have presented evidence of his state before the accident. I disagree with the judge. The marijuana impaired his judgement and caused him to take risks. True, the bear does not know of his drug use but maybe the employee could have reacted sooner to the attack if he was not under the influrnce.

  45. Chuck C says:

    Look again TST he admitted to smoking the pot that day. The 1st para reads: “A worker at a bear park smoked pot before coming to work where he fed grizzlies. The worker was seriously injured by one of the bears. A workers’ compensation judge called that “mind-bogglingly stupid.” But did the judge rule the worker was entitled to workers’ comp? “

  46. Mike Tunney says:

    Although I disagree with smoking marijuana, I don’t believe in punishing someone by denying them benefits if it was not a contributing factor in an accident. THC, or one of its derivatives, is detectable in the blood. Set a level that can be reasonably expected to cause impairment, similar to the .08 % BAC for alcohol. If your employee has an accident and this level is exceeded, deny benefits. Once this level is established and it becomes supported by court decisions, this will become the more cut and dried issue that employers are looking for.

  47. Gary Hulse says:

    One quote will sum it ALLLL up very nicely. John Wayne said: “Life is tough. Its even tougher when your STUPID!!!!

  48. Pay the man.

  49. Richard says:

    As usual, stories are written to evoke emotions from the readers. Headlines are often misleading but effective in getting our attention. The story is presented as “Dude gets high, goes into bear cage, get’s attacked, and then gets Worker’s Comp!! Outrageous!” However, the facts are that the only reason we “know” he was high is because he admitted to it. What the judge said was that there was no other evidence to prove he was under the influence. Had the employer followed protocol and had a program requiring drug testing for all work-related injuries, then the test results would have proven he was under the influence and therefore not eligible for benefits. So, the reason the guy is getting comp is because the employer didn’t manage the case correctly. I happen to know how robust procedures are for dangerous animals at zoos. They are more stringent than a typical ECPL procedure for high voltage work. Yes, the guy was probably high and didn’t follow procedures because he was high. But the employer did not get documentation.

  50. Yes the man was stupid, but I don’t think this was his first time smoking pot and feeding the bears. But it was the first time the bear attacked him. If the company doesn’t have a policy prohibiting drugs and alcohol they need to implement one. yes he deserves comp.

  51. sheralroh says:

    What a sad story. My thought is that the young man was doing something illegal and he got hurt at work because of it. Why should the employer be on the hook for this man’s bad personal habits. He should not get WC benefits. That might make him think twice before doing something illegal.

  52. This is another case showing just how screwed up some of our laws are in this country. The judge ruled right in ruling according to what the law said and that the employer didn’t provide enough evidence. The problem here is not the judge, but the Montana law, which is probably similiar to most states. The law should be changed – you come to work under the influence of an illegal drug or you’ve abused prescription and come to work, you should have to sacrifice your worker’s comp rights. Whether the pot smoking contributed or not, he got stoned and went to work, probably just like he does every day – he didn’t just get up that one day and think today i’ll smoke before going to feed that big 1500 lb grizzly. So sick of hearing about everyone’s rights when they are at fault. Understand this people – when you break the law, you don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else. Come to work drunk or under the influence and your employer can prove it, worker’s comp should have the right to drop your case right then.

  53. At some point, we’re all going to have to stop paying for dysfunctional behavior. I think the dope smoker was obligated to prove that he wasn’t impaired. Why didn’t he get mauled before? What if after smoking dope, his action or inaction caused injury to a coworker? Is he still off scot-free? Why can employees ignore safety rules and escape responsibility for their own poor judgment? There is no way that an employer can *guarantee* safety in the workplace.

  54. If he fed the bear some pot brownies instead they’d be best of buds. That’s the real problem when only one is high, the other tends to be aggressive.

  55. Weedless says:

    Who will line-up next to defend this sled?

    OSHA, weighing in that the baked employees are have been unjustly exposed to danger or:

    PETA, saying that the bear was just doing what a bear does: eats the slowest prey readily available – in this case the slowest-thinking prey.

  56. Maybe the guy tried to eat the bear first (obviously having no Doritos) and the bear turned on him.

    Several years ago, some kids jumped into the polar bear pit at the Bronx Zoo. The last words of one of them were, “Ow! He’s biting me real hard!” Yes, kids, bears bite hard.

  57. The whole thing is that “impairment” has been bandied about and blamed for everything in the world. In reality, it is not as bad as many would have us believe. Of course most of our current crop of managers and such have been “trained” to believe this exaggeration of the effects of “impairment” in order to make them believe our “war’ on drugs is needed and we should accept all the government controls put on our businesses and on our personal lives and all the money taken out of our bottom line because that “war’ is so important.

    For a 5 year or so period, back 35 to 40 years ago, I worked in a manufacturing operation. I worked 12 and 16 hours a day, 6 and 7 days a week. The job and the entire surrounding was full of hazards. One could, with extreme ease, be maimed or killed very quickly.

    The job I did required constant and scrupulous attention to detail in order to avoid extremely costly mistakes.

    At this time, in this plant, probably 80% of the workers were smoking pot, or even hash on a daily basis. This included me.

    Yet, although there were occaisional cuts, scratches, and such, during that period, there was never a serious accident of any kind. There were approximately 500 people working in this plant. Far too many people for far too long a time for it just to have been “luck” that no one was injured or killed in this dangerous environment.

    In addition, although, like most of my fellow employees, I smoked pot on the job most every day, it was almost unknown for me to make a mistake on the meticulous job I did. In fact, toward the end of that period, I had proven my worthiness to the point that I became a supervisor. The norm at that time in that place was 8 to 10 years before you became a supervisor.

    Now if the “impairment” of smoking pot causes you to become very dangerous and causes you to become unable to handle difficult jobs, then when I and my fellow employees were not smoking, we must have been absolutely Christ like as our “impairment” only brought us down to the level of “normal” people.

    All I am saying is, look very closely at the BS you are being fed on a daily basis about the horrors of….XXXX whatever it may be. Those horrors that should make you accept the “protection” of your big brother. Please don’t bother to tell me how horrible “impairment” is. I have been around such and I have also spent many years working with all kinds of studies, surveys, etc. and am fully aware of the factual reality. I am just asking that you become more aware of the reality so you can recognize the hype.

  58. I’m going to bring up a subject that was discussed in the first few comments. It is highly possible that the bear attacked the worker because of the smell of pot. A bear’s nose is thousands and thousands more powerful than a human. So if he smoked pot that day, there is no doubt that the bear could smell it. While humans rely on their sight to recognize individuals, bears rely on their sense of smell to precieve their environment. Bears are also very territorial mammals. My thought is that the bear did not recognize the worker because of the smell of pot, took him as a threat and wanted to protect it’s territory.

  59. I have one highly relevant question: Does anyone have any weed?

  60. weather it was wrong or right he deserves the money.do we have a drug policey for people on welfare and smoking up thier money NO.WHATS THE GOVERMENTS POLICEY ON THIS

  61. This is not a Moral issue, its a legal issue. When the case went to court did the company show evidence that the employee was impaired? Did they do a post accident drug screen at the emergency room? Did they in fact have a policy in place that stated zero tolerance?
    The employee was the only one who gave any evidence of having used pot that morning. Many comments imply that he MUST USE POT EVERY DAY if he used it that day. This actually is an argument that he was no more impaired than he would have been on any other day.
    I certainly am not qualified to claim knowledge of his impairment, but as a standard operating procedure we require all injuries requiring a visit to Dr or emergency have a drug/alcohol screen, and our policy if reviewed and signed off by each associate once a year. If you take the time to read the documents the company was deficient in more than just having a drug policy. No Insurance?? I feel badly that work comp was paid, but then no company goes into court saying our sole defense is “he should have known better, shame on you!” and hopefully their lawyer has corrected their lack of policies and documentation.

  62. SafetyLady says:

    Science and law are two different things. Science deals with reality–what really happened? Law deals with what you can prove happened. The judge ruled correctly. Scientifically, the pot may very well have been the cause of this mauling. The law, however, says, “An employee is not eligible for benefits otherwise payable under this chapter if the employee’s use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician is the major contributing cause of the accident.” The employer evidently could not PROVE that the marijuana was the major contributing cause of this accident, hence the judge’s ruling.

    The law uses science as evidence to prove theories and conclusions, and science, well, it has its own laws.

    It’s a shame this fellow got money for being stupid, but that’s the law.

  63. I think that just getting near the bear in the first place should be a two toke requirement. Brock just happens to have a right to calm his nerves before entering an arena like that. It should be “medicinal marijuanna” for Mr. Hopkins both before and after the feeding frenzie. What’s the law like in Montana? Shouldn’t we follow one of the states that has the most experience in this work ethic? Hello California! Would anyone from that state like to chime in on the correct proceedure for feeding a frenzied bear? How about a little support for Brock here?

  64. Chuck C says:

    The real kick in the pants on drug policy, drug testing, and impairment is that measureable THC In quantities making it illegal to drive a commercial vehicle) stays in the body for 2-3 weeks. LSD is hardly detectible after a couple of days, and I think cocaine isn’t detectible after two days. Now what would you rather have an employee that smokes pot on the weekends, an employee that took LSD three days ago, or an employee that snorts coke every other day?

    As far as I’m concidered anyone impaired by drugs or alcohol should not be granted Workers’ Compensation benefits.

  65. It seems to me the Judge ruled without a doublt absolutely correct, and the employer didn’t offer any proof for fear of it blowing up in his face. Had the employee been killed, it could have resulted in
    criminal charges against the employer.

    Most everyone seems to have bypassed the true issue because “pot” is involved. I have personally hand fed a baby polar bear, and I have grown up, lived and worked in grizzly county, I can attest to several items. Regardless of whether Mr. Hopkins was smoking or not, feeding a bear is a HIGHLY DANGEROUS persuit. IF the employer allowed anyone in the pen while feeding is taking place, it would be an immediate violation of the 5A1 clause of OSHA. No one should be allowed in the pen at all, let alone at feeding time. These are not trained animals, they are caged wild animals that have become accustomed to people. A highly explosive situation.

    I was occasionaly required to work just up the road from the animal park, where these bears roam wild. Although it was against company rules to carry a firearm during work hours, me and several other employees would regularly violate this rule when working in that area and especially at night. The reason, we would rather be alive and jobless than ‘good’ dead employees.

    If pot was not envolved in this case what would everyone be saying? The employer is at fault for allowing this activity, period. As far as being quick enough, forget it. These animals move so much faster than humans, its incredible. The judge was correct, incase any of you forget what country you live in. We have a Constitution that states you are innocent until proven guilty. It is incumbent on the employer to prove his case, and obviously he didn’t. Case closed.

  66. The first is why do you have to enter a pen with a Grizzzly bear, or any bear for that matter to feed it? WHY? I ‘am not going in any pen, cage etc. with a wild animal of any sort , especially a bear that if and when it wants to he can have his way with me! That meat is getting thrown over the fence or whatever. The fact of the matter is a bear is a wild animal and if you work at a place that requires you to enter a pen to feed it….. I doubt that if he smoked pot the bear noticed and decided to maul him for it? I would love to see the training progran, class etc. that shows a safe way to feed a bear. Everyone keeps focusing on the employee admitting he smoked pot that day. I assume Bear feeding is a very hazardous job and can anyone prove that he was impaired at that perticular moment he was mauled. No one can ask the bear why all of a sudden it decided to attack a human. I can think of several reasons. You have me in a cage away from my habitat. I can’t feed myself because I ‘am a captive.. yeah I ‘am going to maul you today for revenge. Poor guy probably needs to smoke pot to calm his nerves or maybe he smoke pot because he feed bears for a living.

  67. Here is how I see it, not all factors have been considered:
    1. Was this idiot wearing the same clothing he wore when smoking the pot? If so, the smell residue MAY have contributed to the bear’s previously unreported aggressive behavior. If not, then there may be another unknown factor that might create the same situation with other personnel. As a best practice, this should be assessed by risk management.
    2. If it can be established that management knew he consumed a sedative substance (in this case POT) prior to work, then they should be held complicit in his injuries, same as if he was allowed to work after taking prescriptive sedative medications.
    3. Knowing that the person is using illegal substances, we don’t know what the company’s policy is on retaining this person but, I would have very serious doubts about retaining him. His non-isolated “pre-work” recreational behavior may contribute to a similar event or even to the injury of other personnel. My suggestion, replace that employee and contest the award.

  68. I think everyone has heretofore missed the big lesson in all this: Don’t mess with grizzly bears when you are high! Or, at any other time for that matter.

    Impairment with use of pot is such a hard issue. It is not consistent from sample to sample, and the way it affects people is variable as well. A guy that gets high every day is much less impaired that someone who does not. If this guy got high before getting into a cage with a freaking grizzly bear, he is probably the daily stoner type. Not to suggest that he was not impaired, but if he was a chronic user, he was not as impaired as someone who is not smoking frequently.

    Don’t ask me how I know that.

  69. I wonder how many volunteers there would be from the group that is focusing on the pot smoking, that would get into a cage/pen to feed a grizzly? ANY?

    Robert said all factors were not considered. Here’s a factor for you, Robert, would you be willing to get into a pen with a grizzly with a steak in your hand?

    Does anyone really believe that this company has a policy on anything? This is probably the ONLY person he could find to do this. Right now that employer is out shopping for another pot smoking as a replacement. Somebody that couldn’t get a job as a Wal-mart greeter.

    The employer should be sentenced to pay all future “medical marijuana” costs to combat pain, for this former employee.

  70. if I smoked some weed before I went to feed my pet pitbull of 7yrs and he attacted me for whatever reason, the pitbull is the one to blame just like the bear for attacking the employee. smoking pot alone has nothing to do with the way animals behave. he was doing his job also. pay em

  71. Great Discussion! Potaphobes and doobiedooers both making all kinds of claims about effects and animal behavior and acting like they really know it all. Did anyone think to ask the bear?

  72. Bill’s 6/15 comment misses a huge issue: Dogs are domesticated; grizzly bears are not! Although the debate about pit bulls is a little far afield from this discussion, this guy probably should not have been in proximity of the bear, high or not. Saying that it’s OK to F with grizzy bears when you are straight, but not when you are high, misses the point entirely. A loaded handgun is safer than a grizzly bear.

  73. Tom, my point was that any animal, domesticated or not, can turn on you at any given time. Wether your high or not. It happened at work while he was doing his job. He should get comp.

  74. I agree that he should get comp. Any employer that would allow such a stupid practice should not get off easy.

  75. “A loaded handgun is safer than a grizzly bear.” Actually if you are facing a grizzly a very large caliber fully loaded handgun would improve your safety tremendously. Grizzlies have been taken with a .44 mag, but I would much prefer a .375JDG.

  76. Pardon the typo, I meant a .375 JDJ.

  77. Pot or no pot, you’d think the process for feeding a bear would be to toss the slab of meat over the fence. They don’t care if a bit of dirt get on it.

  78. Coltsfan George says:

    Pot + Grizzly Bear = Stupid

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