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.