S.D. Supreme Court Rejects Claim that Pot Use Caused Work Accident

April 13, 2007

A man injured while working for a Sioux Falls landscaping company can get workers’ compensation benefits because the company failed to show the accident was caused by the man’s off-duty use of marijuana, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled April 12.

The high court unanimously upheld the state Labor Department’s decision to allow workers’ compensation insurance to pay benefits for Thomas VanSteenwyk, who was hurt while working for Baumgartner Trees and Landscaping.

Baumgartner had argued that VanSteenwyk should not get workers’ compensation benefits because his use of marijuana the night before the accident was a substantial factor in causing his injuries.

But the Supreme Court agreed with the Labor Department’s ruling that Baumgartner’s expert witnesses failed to prove that marijuana was a substantial factor in the mishap.

VanSteenwyk’s leg was injured when he was attempting to connect the bucket to a skid loader. His leg was caught between the cab and a hydraulic arm as he stood to kick a locking lever that would not engage, according to court records.

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