In Parson v. Truck Parts & Equipment, Inc. 2019 WL 4805882 (La. 10/1/19), the Louisiana Supreme Court reversed a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeal and held that unconfirmed drug test results could not be used as a basis for an employer’s fraud defense in a workers’ compensation claim.
Parson v. Truck Parts & Equipment, Inc. Background
The claimant in Parson alleged that he sustained an injury by accident in the course and scope of his employment on November 25, 2016. A drug test administered the following day came back positive; however, no confirmation testing was performed. When the claimant filed a Disputed Claim for Compensation seeking benefits, the employer asserted an affirmative defense of intoxication.
Rulings by Workers’ Compensation Judge and Second Circuit Court of Appeal
The claimant filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to strike the intoxication defense and argued that the drug test was inadmissible under La. R.S. 23:1081(9)(e), which requires verification of any positive test. The workers’ compensation judge granted the motion for summary judgment but denied the motion to strike.
Concerned that his employer would use the unconfirmed drug test as part of a fraud defense under La. R.S. 23:1208, the claimant filed a motion in limine asserting that the unconfirmed drug test was inadmissible for any purpose. The workers’ compensation judge agreed and granted the motion in limine.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the ruling, holding that the authority to exclude an unconfirmed drug screen in an intoxication defense did not extend to a fraud claim.
Louisiana Supreme Court Ruling
The Louisiana Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the Second Circuit and reinstated the ruling of the workers’ compensation judge. The Court held that evidence used to prove disqualification or forfeiture of benefits must be deemed competent, and that an unconfirmed drug test was unquestionably inadmissible under 23:1081(9)(e). Because unconfirmed drug test results could not be used as a basis for disqualification under an intoxication defense it would be illogical to permit the same unconfirmed drug test to be used as proof of fraud to ban a claimant’s benefits under 23:1208. The unconfirmed test results were equally unreliable in both circumstances.