Being Mauled by a Bear While “High” Does Not Eliminate Workers’ Comp

by Michael Haberman on June 1, 2011 · 0 comments

This one goes under the label of “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!” It is not often that being mauled by a bear appears on a Workers’ Comp statement, let alone when the report also says the employee was under the influence of marijuana. Here is the story.

It seems that in Montana there is a place called the Great Bear Adventures, which is a place that has Grizzly Bears that have the run of the park. Tourists are allowed to drive through park to see the bears in their natural habitat, though in this case the natural habitat has several layers of electrified fences, but details, details. Naturally such an establishment would need to have employees, since someone has to feed the bears, something Yogi was always hoping for, by the way. Brock Hopkins was just such a man. (Yogi and Boo-Boo would have loved him.) But feeding the bears was not all Brock did in the course of his day. Brock also liked to smoke marijuana. (Which may have put all the picnic baskets in danger, but I digress.)

One day on his way to work Brock was taking a couple of tokes, which, given that he was about to feed grizzly bears may not have been the wisest course of action, but certainly understandable. In the course of being in the bear pen Brock was attacked by the largest grizzly and severely mauled. He was saved by another bear that attacked the first. (I wonder if he used reason? “Haven’t you ever heard the saying about ‘biting the hand that feeds you?’”

The owner of the bear park did not have WC coverage, so Brock applied to the state Uninsured Employers Fund.
According to an article “The workers’ compensation court ruled that Hopkins was injured in the course and scope of his employment and that although the “use of marijuana to kick off a day of working around grizzly bears was ill-advised to
say the least and mind-bogglingly stupid to say the most,” grizzlies are “equal opportunity maulers,” without regard to marijuana consumption
, so marijuana was not the major contributing cause of Hopkins’ injuries.”

Apparently this ruling got appealed because it ended up in front of the Montana Supreme Court. The Supreme Court upheld the workers’ comp court and affirmed that, although the law allowed that taking nonprescription drug would nullify any WC
award if found to be a contributing factor to the accident, this was not the case with Brock Hopkins. There was no evidence on his level of impairment presented. I guess the doctors, as they were patching him, up failed to take a blood sample. I will guess any buzz he had going got cleared up very quickly.

There are several lessons to be learned here, but the biggest one is, as Ranger Smith often admonished “don’t feed the bears” particularly when you are the meal.

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