Workers' Compensation

Tennessee: Injured Worker’s Death Due to Overdose Was Not Compensable

Reversing a decision of a state chancery court that had found an injured worker’s death due to acute oxycodone overdose, coupled with alcohol use, to be compensable, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the actions of the worker, in taking more of his opioid medication than prescribed and consuming alcohol while taking the pain medication—both specifically against his physician’s orders—amounted to an independent intervening cause, severing the causal connection to the original injury. Quoting Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 10.01, the Court acknowledged that “all the medical consequences and sequelae that flow from the primary injury are compensable,” but, again quoting Larson, held there could be no compensation where the result was shown to have been “produced by an intervening nonindustrial cause.” The Court also rejected the widow’s contention that only reckless or intentional misconduct could constitute an intervening cause. It indicated that negligence was the appropriate standard for determining whether an independent intervening cause relieved an employer of liability for a subsequent injury purportedly flowing from a prior work-related injury.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is the co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Kilburn v. Granite State Ins. Co., 2017 Tenn. LEXIS 198 (Apr. 10, 2017)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 10.01.

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

For a more detailed discussion of the case, see