Legislature(1999 - 2000)
04/18/2000 02:04 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.