Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1081 provides an intoxication defense that prohibits workers’ compensation benefits for injuries caused by an employee’s intoxication at the time of the injury. In establishing an intoxication defense, an Employer must prove the employee’s use of a controlled substance by a preponderance of the evidence. If there is, at the time of the accident, evidence of either on or off the job use of marijuana, then it shall be presumed that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Once the employer has met the burden of proving that the employee was intoxicated at the time of the accident, it is also presumed that the employee’s injury was caused by his intoxication. The burden then shifts to the employee to show by a preponderance of the evidence that his intoxication was not a contributing cause of the accident.
A recent decision by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals addressed the evidence needed to overcome a presumption of intoxication. There, an employee died as the result of a traumatic work accident, after which the employee’s children filed a claim for death benefits. The employer sought dismissal of the claim because a drug test revealed marijuana in the employee’s system at the time of death, thus creating a presumption that the employee’s intoxication caused the work injury. In opposition, the claimants submitted evidence that the drug test only revealed a trace amount of THC. They also submitted affidavits from co-workers stating the employee did not appear impaired on the day of the incident. The workers’ compensation judge nevertheless granted the Employer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the claimants did not show by a preponderance of evidence that the employee’s intoxication was not a contributing cause of the accident.
On appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit reversed, holding that the evidence submitted by Claimants in opposition created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the employee’s intoxication was a contributing cause of the accident. In doing so, the Court noted that the accident “could have happened to anyone, whether they were impaired or not.”
Joseph v. Georgia Pacific, LLC