Arkansas: Court Says Injured Worker Successfully Rebutted Statutory Presumption Related to Illegal Drugs

As is the case in a number of other jurisdictions, if an Arkansas worker tests positive for, among other things, marijuana metabolites, following a work-related injury, the employer enjoys a rebuttable presumption that the injury or accident was “substantially occasioned” by the use of illegal drugs [see Ark. Code Ann. § 11-9-102(4)(B)(iv)(b)]. If the worker is not able to overcome that presumption, he or she cannot recover benefits.  In a case that has yo-yo’d up and down between the state’s appellate courts and its Workers’ Compensation Commission for several years, the Supreme Court of Arkansas, in a deeply divided decision, reversed the state’s Court of Appeals, finding that an employee did indeed rebut the illegal drugs presumption following an explosion has he used an acetylene torch to remove the tops from several barrels that had earlier contained petroleum residues.  Acknowledging that the Commission was the fact-finder in workers’ compensation cases, but finding that the Commission had “arbitrarily disregarded testimony” submitted in support of the worker's claim, the majority held that the Commission's decision that the worker failed to rebut the presumption that his accident was not substantially occasioned by the use of illegal drugs was not supported by substantial evidence. It said it was “convinced that fair-minded persons with the same facts before them could not have reached the conclusions arrived at by the Commission.” Accordingly, remanded the case for a determination of benefits.  Two justices dissented, indicating the testimony had been “conflicting at every turn,” and that the Commission had resolved the conflicts against the worker.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is a leading commentator and expert on the law of workers’ compensation.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to lexis.com.

See Edmisten v. Bull Shoals Landing, 2014 Ark. 89, 2014 Ark. LEXIS 147 (Feb. 27, 2014) [2014 Ark. 89, 2014 Ark. LEXIS 147 (Feb. 27, 2014)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 36.03 [36.03]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

For more information about LexisNexis products and solutions connect with us through our corporate site