Wednesday, April 02, 2008, 6:43 AM

Worker's Intoxication Properly Barred Workers' Comp. Recovery

In Gratz v. Hill, the NC COA held yesterday that an employee's workers' comp. recovery was properly barred because the worker's intoxication was a cause for the injury.

In Gratz, the plaintiff got a beer in the morning while with fellow workers on the way to a job that involved roof work. Due to the windy conditions, the other workers refused to get up on the roof. But the plaintiff hopped up -- and soon fell off. Evidence indicated that the plaintiff's breath smelled of alcohol, that he had elevated blood alcohol levels, and that he had traces of cocaine and cannabinoids in his urine.

The COA noted that generally workers' comp. is intended to eliminate fault on the part of the worker as a basis for denying recovery and that generally workers' comp. law is construed liberally in favor of benefits. However, the COA stated that workers' comp. law expressly relieves employers from paying workers' comp. benefits where the employee's intoxication is a cause (and not necessarily the only cause) of the injury, so long as the employer or its agent didn't supply the intoxicant.

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