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Injured worker who tested positive for marijuana eligible for comp

Posted On: Apr. 1, 2015 12:00 AM CST

A worker who tested positive for marijuana following a workplace accident is still entitled to workers compensation benefits, an Ohio appeals court has ruled.

Michael G. Trent was injured while working for Alliance, Ohio-based Stark Metal Sales Inc. when a piece of steel fell on his legs in June 2011, court records show.

Upon arriving at the hospital, Mr. Trent was informed that he would be subject to a urine drug screen, according to records. However, he told nurses that he was unable to urinate at that time

A subsequent urine drug screen was performed one week later, and Mr. Trent tested positive for marijuana metabolite, records show.

The Industrial Commission of Ohio allowed his claim for workers comp benefits anyway, leading Stark Metal to appeal, according to records.

Stark County Common Pleas Court allowed Mr. Trent's request to exclude any testimony concerning drug testing, noting that “marijuana metabolites can remain present in the body well beyond the six-day period at play in this matter and that (Stark Metal) provides no evidence or argument taken from the medical records to show when (Mr. Trent) may have used marijuana.”

Mr. Trent testified that he last smoked marijuana several weeks before the accident, records show.

Stark Metal argued that by having marijuana in his system at all, Mr. Trent violated a workplace rule, which states that “employees will not be allowed to work with prohibited drugs in their system,” records show. As a result, Stark Metal argued that Mr. Trent “was not in the scope and course of his employment at the time he was injured.”

On appeal, Ohio's 5th District Court of Appeals affirmed the decision by Stark County Common Pleas Court on March 23, ruling that the court “did not abuse its discretion in excluding the evidence on the basis that its prejudicial effect outweighed its probative value.”

Mr. Trent is entitled to workers comp benefits unless his drug use was the “proximate cause of the injury,” regardless of whether he violated a workplace rule by having marijuana metabolites in his system, the appellate court ruling states.