Decedent was a retired firefighter with the Jefferson Parish Fire Department. He passed away on May 5, 2013. On January 7, 2015, his widow filed a disputed claim for compensation seeking death benefits pursuant to La. R.S. 23:1231. Plaintiff alleged that her husband filed a workers’ compensation claim in 2004 for which he received benefits until the time of his death. She further alleged that he suffered a heart attack on the date of his death, and the coroner amended the death certificate in October 2014 to reflect that the cause of death was the heart attack.
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.