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Mine worker’s son awarded benefits for fatal after-hours accident


The New Mexico Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld an award of death benefits to the young son of a mine worker who was killed in an after-hours accident.

Black Rock Services operates a mine where Steve Justice, who lived on-site, worked as the plant operator. Mr. Justice was killed at the mine after work hours when, on his way to turn off a generator, he became pinned between his truck and the generator trailer, according to Justice v. Black Rock Services, filed in Albuquerque.

A workers compensation judge found Mr. Justice’s death was compensable and awarded benefits to his son. In reaching this conclusion, the judge invoked the “bunkhouse” rule and exceptions to the “going and coming rule.”

The going and coming rule generally precludes compensation for injuries suffered on the way to work or on the way home from work. But under the bunkhouse rule, it may be established that an injury arose out of and occurred in the course of employment if, in view of the nature of the employment setting and accommodations available, it was contemplated that the claimant should use the employer's bunkhouse or other on-premises sleeping facilities.

The judge also found that Mr. Justice’s use of methamphetamine did not bar recovery, according to the ruling.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals said the mine’s challenges were procedurally deficient.

Specifically, the mine failed to preserve its claims of hearsay regarding testimony. The court also said New Mexico law prohibits the reduction or denial of death benefits to qualifying dependents due to a worker's intoxication.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.