When Drinking on the Job Gets Ugly

drunk-baby-got-your-noseA New Hampshire workers’ compensation case is being reviewed to determine if intoxication was the cause of the accident that left a man without the use of his arms and legs. The Insurance Journal reports that compared to the dangerous job at hand, Thomas Phillips claims his intoxication was a minor detail.

Norman and Diane Crocker gave Phillips, their tenant, a break on his rent in exchange for him performing maintenance jobs around their properties. Phillips fell while cutting branches up in a tree and became a quadriplegic.

After initially receiving benefits, then having that decision reversed by the Compensation Appeals Board, Phillips took the case to the New Hampshire Supreme Court who sent it back to the CAB to determine whether intoxication can be used as a defense against Phillips’ claim. In this case the real cause might be difficult to prove because there were no witnesses to the fall and there may be evidence that the branches snapped and led to the fall.

The Crocker’s said they only briefly greeted Philips but saw no indication of drinking or intoxication. The courts said if they had known, they would not be able to use intoxication as a defense against the claim. Phillips told the court that the Crocker’s knew he was an alcoholic, and therefore “should have known” he would have been drinking when they asked him to do this job. We’re not talking a casual afternoon beer here. His BAC was 0.27, more than three times the legal limit.

The circumstances in this case appear to be their word versus his word and some of the claims don’t have solid evidence to back them up. The “I Was Drunk” excuse usually doesn’t work when you throw up in a taxi, get into a bar fight or order everyone drinks on your friend’s tab, so why should it work when you hurt yourself on the job? Accidents do happen, but being impaired on the job just seems to be tempting fate.

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