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California high court set to hear worker's overdose death compensation case

Posted On: Feb. 9, 2015 12:00 AM CST

California high court set to hear worker's overdose death compensation case

Arguments will be presented to the California Supreme Court next month in the case of an injured worker whose death from a prescription drug overdose was ruled noncompensable under California workers compensation law.

The high court is scheduled to hear arguments in South Coast Framing v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board on March 3 in San Francisco, according to a post on Friday on the California Supreme Court docket. The court agreed last March to consider the case.

Brandon Clark, a South Coast employee, suffered back, head, neck and chest injuries when he fell off a roof while working for South Coast in 2008, according to court records. His workers comp doctor prescribed an antidepressant, Vicodin and Neurontin, a drug used to treat neuropathic pain.

Mr. Clark also was prescribed Xanax and Ambien by his personal physician in January 2009 for anxiety and sleep problems, records show. He died the following July from the combined effects of the antidepressant, Neurontin, Xanax, Ambien and associated early pneumonia.

Mr. Clark’s wife and children filed for workers comp death benefits, contending that his death was a result of his work injury and related medications, records show. A California workers comp judge awarded benefits, finding that Mr. Clark’s workers comp medications contributed to his death.

South Coast, which was insured by Omaha, Nebraska-based Redwood Fire & Casualty Co., appealed, records show. A three-judge panel of the California 4th District Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the workers comp judge’s decision in December 2013, finding that medical testimony in Mr. Clark’s case did not adequately establish that his death was caused by his comp prescriptions.