Barron v. Labor Commission

274 P.3d 1016 (2012)

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Barron v. Labor Commission

Utah Court of Appeals
274 P.3d 1016 (2012)

Facts

James Barron (plaintiff) was employed by Hogan & Associates Construction (Hogan) as a welder. While working on a second-story building, Barron fell off and hit concrete, causing injuries to his spine, arms, and liver. Barron went to the hospital on the same day, where a toxicology report revealed that his urine sample tested positive for cocaine metabolites, well above the normal limit. According to Barron, he shared cocaine with a friend two days before the accident. Barron filed for permanent partial-disability benefits and medical expenses against Hogan and its insurer. Hogan and its insurer challenged the claim based on Barron’s drug use. They conceded that Barron’s claim was otherwise compensable. Barron had various witnesses testify who saw him on the day of the accident, including a coworker and foreman, who testified that Barron showed no signs of impairment. Medical personnel also testified that Barron was alert and oriented on the day of the accident. The administrative-law judge (ALJ) awarded medical expenses only, finding that the presence of cocaine triggered the statutory presumption that Barron’s drug use was the main contributing cause of his injuries. The ALJ found that Barron failed to rebut the presumption, holding that there was no showing that an outside force caused Barron’s fall. Barron appealed, and the Labor Commission (the commission) (defendant) affirmed the ALJ’s decision. The commission rejected Barron’s argument regarding the timing of his cocaine use and that the lack of safety measures was a major contributing cause of his injuries. Neither the ALJ’s nor the commission’s decisions discussed the testimony of Barron’s witnesses. Barron filed a petition challenging the decision denying disability benefits. Barron argued that he presented enough evidence to rebut the presumption that his cocaine use was the main contributing cause of his injuries.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Voros, J.)

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