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Workers Comp Benefits for Being Drunk & Tired

Posted by Frank Steinberg | Aug 07, 2006 | 0 Comments

Tlumac v. High Bridge Stone is an interesting case from the New Jersey Supreme Court. It deals with the availability of workers compensation benefits for a truck driver who had been drinking, but for separate reasons may have been tired. He drove off the side of a highway, was injured, and applied for workers comp benefits. His employer opposed the application on the basis of a 1911 statute that denies benefits where intoxication proximately causes a work related injury.

Expert testimony put Mr. Tlumac's blood alcohol context between .10 and .18 at the time of the accident. However, he also presented evidence that he had been sleep deprived due to the need to care for his wife, and because he had been making repairs to his house.

Earlier cases interpreting the intoxication statute held that intoxication had to be the sole proximate cause of the injury for the defense to apply. Here Mr. Tlumac presented enough evidence to establish another concurrent cause for the accident in the form of sleepiness unrelated to alcohol. Thus, the court held that he was entitled to recover benefits.

So, yes, as odd as it sounds, you can't recover if you're just drunk. You can recover if you're both drunk and tired for another reason.

The Court took pains to point out that it was only carrying out the intention of the Legislature, but suggested that the Legislature might consider revisiting the nearly century old law to be sure that it comports with modern reality.

About the Author

Frank Steinberg

Frank is the founder and principal of Steinberg Law, LLC. A Jersey boy born and bred, he focuses on employment litigation and counseling, business litigation,  and aviation law. Following law school and a clerkship in the federal district court Frank spent his early career with large litigation ...

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