Plaintiffs’ father was killed in an unwitnessed work accident when he was caught in a pinch point while operating a lift truck. An investigation revealed that the decedent had traces of marijuana in his blood and urine. Plaintiffs filed a disputed worker’s compensation claim for death benefits. Defendant answered the suit and filed a motion for summary judgment raising the intoxication defense provided in La. R.S. 23:1081, which establishes employers’ various defenses to worker’s compensation claims. Defendant argued that the death benefits were forfeited due to the intoxication, which triggered the statutory presumption that the intoxication caused the accident. Plaintiffs opposed the motion arguing that the deposition testimony of multiple coworkers showed that the decedent appeared to be normal prior to the accident. The worker’s compensation judge granted the motion and dismissed Plaintiffs’ claim. Plaintiffs appealed.
Once an employer has met its burden of proving that an employee was intoxicated at the time of an accident, it is presumed that the employee’s injury was caused by his intoxication. The burden then shifts to the employee to show that his intoxication was not a contributing cause of the accident. The Court found that Defendant met its burden in proving that the decedent was intoxicated at the time of his accident as Defendant produced the positive drug test and a copy of its drug testing policy. However, the Court found that the coworkers’ deposition testimony, including that the decedent acted normally and did not appear to be impaired on the night of the accident, and that this type of accident could have happened to anyone, created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the decedent was actually intoxicated and whether the presumed intoxication contributed to the accident. Thus, the summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded.
Boudreaux v. Georgia Pacific, LLC (La. App. 1 Cir. 2015)