Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/18/2000 02:04 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
           HB 422-WORKERS' COMPENSATION:DRUGS & ALCOHOL                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  MACKIE stated  HB 422 was  heard at  a previous  committee                                                            
hearing but was  held because Senator Donley had concerns  about the                                                            
proximate cause of injuries that occur on the job.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 519                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DONLEY asked  what the  outcome would  be if  a person  was                                                            
excluded from  workers' compensation  coverage because of  proximate                                                            
cause.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. PAUL GROSSI, Director  of the Division of Workers' Compensation,                                                            
Department  of Labor  & Workforce  Development  (DOLWD), stated  Mr.                                                            
Walters will answer Senator Donley's questions.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY asked what  the definition of "proximate cause" is in                                                            
workers' compensation claims.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. WILLIAM  WALTERS,  Chief of  Adjudications for  the Division  of                                                            
Workers' Compensation,  DOLWD, stated  "proximate cause"  is defined                                                            
as the substantial cause of an accident.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY  asked if, under HB 422, intoxication  was a cause of                                                            
an injury but the majority  of the causation was from other factors,                                                            
whether  an employee would  be excluded  from workers' compensation                                                             
coverage.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WALTERS  stated  HB  422  does  not  change  the  standard  for                                                            
intoxication at the workplace.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   DONLEY  stated   the  standard   under   present  law   is                                                            
intoxication which is a  higher standard than consumption.  A person                                                            
may have consumed alcohol  but not be intoxicated so the alcohol may                                                            
not have been  a dominant cause.  If another person  was intoxicated                                                            
and alcohol was the major  cause of the accident, the person who had                                                            
merely  consumed  alcohol  is out  of luck.    He asked  where  that                                                            
employee  turns if kicked  out of the workers'  compensation  system                                                            
because of the accident.                                                                                                        
CHAIRMAN MACKIE  asked whether a person who consumed  two beers and,                                                            
while on the work premises,  was severely injured when a pallet fell                                                            
off  of  a   vehicle  driving  by,   would  be  denied  a   workers'                                                            
compensation claim.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  replied the  person would not  lose benefits if  it was                                                            
proven that  the alcohol  consumed was not  a factor and the  person                                                            
was not impaired.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN MACKIE  asked if Mr. Walters  could think of a scenario  in                                                            
which a person had consumed  alcohol and was involved in an accident                                                            
and would be denied workers' compensation.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WALTERS stated  any  person involved  in  an accident  who  was                                                            
impaired would be denied workers' compensation.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  MACKIE  stated  it  would  have  to  be  proven  that  the                                                            
impairment  from  the  alcohol   was  the  proximate  cause  of  the                                                            
accident.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY stated there  can be more than one proximate cause of                                                            
an  accident.    If  one  of  the  events  or  causes  involves  the                                                            
consumption   of   alcohol,   that   person   is   denied   workers'                                                            
compensation.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  MACKIE  asked  if the  intent  of HB  422  is to  give  an                                                            
employer who  has a zero tolerance  policy the ability to  show that                                                            
the consumption  of  alcohol  was the cause  of  an accident  versus                                                            
having to prove absolute intoxication of an employee.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  stated those scenarios  are hypothetical.  The  outcome                                                            
would be different  if an employer was trying to prove  intoxication                                                            
versus consumption  and which of the two was the proximate  cause of                                                            
an accident.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY stated that  a better standard might be to shift from                                                            
intoxication  to  consumption  and  that  consumption  was  not  the                                                            
dominant  cause  of  the  injury.   After  the  situation  has  been                                                            
assessed,  consumption  of alcohol  may not  be the  only factor  of                                                            
proximate  cause.  He asked  what happens  to people who are  denied                                                            
workers' compensation coverage.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WALTERS stated  a situation  with  many proximate  causes,  one                                                            
being alcohol  consumption  but not intoxication,  should be  turned                                                            
over to the  Superior Court for a  ruling on Workers' Compensation.                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DONLEY  stated that would be a good safety  valve if it were                                                            
part of HB 422.   If 51 percent of the proximate cause  was a factor                                                            
other  than the consumption  of  alcohol, that  person could  pursue                                                            
workers' compensation or damages.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN MACKIE  asked if Mr. Walters could see a  potential problem                                                            
dealing with HB 422 if it passes.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. WALTERS  replied  if HB  422 passes,  it should  not affect  the                                                            
workload.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  DONLEY  moved  a  conceptual  amendment  (Amendment  1)  as                                                            
follows:                                                                                                                        
     on page  2, delete lines 9 and  10 and insert, on line  9, "the                                                            
     consumption   of  an   alcoholic  beverage,   injury  was   not                                                            
     proximately caused  by the intoxication of the injured employee                                                            
     or".                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LEMAN  objected.  The motion carried with  Senators Hoffman,                                                            
Donley, and  T. Kelly voting  "Yea," and  Senators Leman and  Mackie                                                            
voting "Nay."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LEMAN  moved SCSHB 422 (L&C) from committee  with individual                                                            
recommendations  and accompanying fiscal notes.  Without  objection,                                                            
the motion carried.                                                                                                             

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