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Texas: Worker Was Not Intoxicated from Cocaine in Spite of “Doing Two Lines” Several Days Prior to Accident

June 13, 2014 (2 min read)

A Texas appellate court affirmed a jury’s determination that an injured worker was not intoxicated when he sustained injuries in an electrical explosion in spite of the fact that a urine sample taken at a nearby hospital tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a cocaine byproduct remaining in the human body after the drug is metabolized.  Following the explosion, the worker filed a claim for insurance coverage with the state Division of Workers’ Compensation and the carrier defended on intoxication grounds.  A hearing officer determined the worker was intoxicated at the time of his injury and did not, therefore, suffer a compensable injury. The Appeals Panel affirmed the hearing officer's determination and the worker sought judicial review. The appellate court observed that the worker’s supervisor testified that the worker seemed normal and “fit for duty” on the day of the explosion and that while the worker admitted doing “two lines” of cocaine on the Tuesday night before the Friday morning accident, he also testified that he worked all day Thursday and Friday morning, before the accident, without incident.  One medical expert indicated the worker was intoxicated at the time of the accident, but another testified that because there were a number of unknown variables—e.g., the amount and purity of the cocaine, the amount of alcohol also consumed—he could not determine if the worker was intoxicated at the time of the accident.  Moreover, that expert said that he “seriously” doubted that, after the passage of several days, anyone could distinguish whether a person had used cocaine at all. The appellate court found that a reasonable fact finder could conclude that the worker was not intoxicated at the time of the injury.

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

See Bituminous Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Ruel, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 6093 (June 4, 2014) [2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 6093 (June 4, 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.

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