Drunk Urinator Can't Get Workers' Comp for Fall

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By Betty Wang, JD on August 05, 2013 1:27 PM

A drunk urinator has been denied workers' compensation benefits for falling over a railing while taking a whizz.

Longshoreman Gary Schwirse sustained an injury in 2006 from a drunken fall at his workplace in Portland, Oregon. He had apparently imbibed a half-pint of whiskey and at least nine beers, registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent. He also tested positive for marijuana use.

Initially, Schwirse's workers' comp claim was successful, based on his assertion that he'd tripped over an orange traffic cone at a Marine Terminals Corp. dock, The Oregonian reports. But upon appeal, one sobering fact tripped him up in court.

9th Circuit Says No

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed an administrative law judge's decision that had granted Schwirse workers' comp. The court based its reversal on the fact that it wasn't so much of a workplace hazard that caused his injury, but rather Schwirse's own intoxication.

First things first: In order to even be eligible for workers' compensation, the injured person must be an employee working for an employer who carries workers' compensation insurance. Generally, most employers do.

But in addition to that, workers' comp only applies to employees, and not independent contractors or temporary workers. Some states also bar illegal immigrant workers from being able to obtain workers' compensation coverage.

'Work-Related' Injury?

Next, if one is eligible for workers' compensation, he can only be compensated for his injury if it's work-related.

A few factors can be considered when determining this. For one, if the injury happened while the employee was doing something on behalf of his employer, that counts.

Also, injuries that physically occur in the workplace are likely to be classified as work-related. The term "work-related" may also extend to related events, like company parties and lunch breaks (when they are at the company cafeteria, or if it's a work lunch, for example).

It looks as though Schwirse's injury after urinating, while inebriated, despite being at the worksite, does not qualify as being "work-related," however. As the 9th Circuit ruled, the copious amount of alcohol that he'd consumed prior to being injured was squarely to blame.

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