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Alcoholic argues for workers compensation


Because his employer knew he was an alcoholic the employer should have known he was drinking the day he was injured and is therefore liable for workers comp benefits.

That is the argument of a man seeking work comp benefits in New Hampshire, where the law says that an employer is not liable for any worker injury caused by intoxication. But the defense against paying for benefits does not apply if the employer knew the employee was drunk.

I wrote about this case last week in a story available here.

However, in that story I wrote only about the New Hampshire Supreme Court's finding in the case that a worker's drunkenness must contribute to the cause of his work-related injury for an employer to claim intoxication as a defense.

Mere intoxication, without a causal link between drinking and injury, cannot be used as a defense against providing benefits, the state's high court ruled. The Supreme Court kicked the case back down to see if there is such a causal connection here.

My earlier story didn't cover the claimant's argument that the employer should have known he was drunk because he is an alcoholic. He is now also a quadriplegic as a result of the accident.

The court record shows that he was injured falling from a ladder while trying to remove a tree branch with a chain saw. There is no argument he was drunk at the time, the court record states.

So he was climbing a tree with a chainsaw while drunk. This case raises a lot of questions because there is a possibility he fell not because he was drunk, but because a tree branch snapped.

On the other hand, did he place the ladder against a weak tree branch because in his drunken condition he made a poor judgment call? I don't know, but I do know that climbing a tree with a chain saw while drunk is crazy.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court decision is available here.