Remember the man who was awarded workers’ comp benefits after deciding to smoke pot and then feed a grizzly bear? Well, his employer appealed the benefits ruling, and a state supreme court issued a final decision.
First a little backstory: Last year, we told you about an employee who was mauled by a grizzly at Great Bear Adventures in West Glacier, MT.
The employee was high at the time — and escaped with his life only after another bear distracted the grizzly that had bit the worker in the leg, knee and buttocks.
He admitted that he had gotten high before entering the bear enclosure — and then applied to the Montana Uninsured Employers’ Fund for workers’ comp, because his employer didn’t have workers’ comp insurance.
His claim was initially denied. But after he appealed to Montana’s Workers’ Compensation Court, he was granted benefits.
Reason? While a judge noted the use of marijuana to kick off the day was “mind-bogglingly stupid,” there was no evidence that smoking pot was the major cause of the bear attack.
The judge wrote: “Grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers, attacking without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or marijuana usage.”
Back in court
Not satisfied with that ruling, the man’s employer and Montana’s Uninsured Employers’ Fund appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. They claimed:
- The employee was a volunteer, performing services in return for aid and sustenance only, and
- That the worker’s marijuana use was a major contributing cause of his injuries.
The state supreme court shot down both arguments.
First, it said there was no evidence the man was just a volunteer. It sided with the workers’ comp court’s ruling: “There is a term of art used to describe the regular exchange of money for favor — it is called ’employment.'”
Second, the state supreme court agreed with the assessment that the employee’s use of marijuana wasn’t a contributing factor that caused his injuries.
In the end, Montana’s Workers’ Compensation Court and state supreme court ruled that bears don’t care whether someone’s been smoking pot.
Result: The man gets to keep his workers’ comp benefits.
Cite: Hopkins v. Uninsured Employers’ Fund
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