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OFF BEAT: Man injured while drunk not entitled to workers comp benefits


An Oregon longshoreman who drunkenly took a six-foot tumble while urinating from one of his employer's docks cannot receive workers compensation benefits for his fall, a federal court has ruled.

Gary Schwirse worked for Marine Terminals Corp. in Portland, Ore., according to an opinion issued late last month by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2006, Mr. Schwirse drank two beers before showing up for work one day, drank up to eight more beers by lunch, and drank more than a half-pint of whiskey through the end of his shift at 4 p.m.

At about 4:30 p.m. that day, Mr. Schwirse decided to urinate from a Marine Terminals dock, where he fell over a rail and landed on concrete six feet below, court records show. He was diagnosed with a severe scalp laceration, as well as a blood alcohol-content level of .25 and evidence of marijuana ingestion.

Mr. Schwirse sought workers comp benefits under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, saying he believed he tripped over a bright orange warning cone prior to his fall, records show. He was denied benefits by an administrative law judge and the Oregon Benefits Review Board, and appealed the case to the 9th Circuit.

The appeals court upheld the prior rulings, finding that Mr. Schwirse's intoxication was the sole known cause for Mr. Schwirse's injuries.