The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a Workers’ Compensation Court ruling that a man who was mauled while feeding the bears at a tourist attraction is eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.
According to court documents, Brock Hopkins had smoked marijuana before entering a bear enclosure at Great Bear Adventures near West Glacier on Nov. 2, 2007. Park owner Russell Kilpatrick said Hopkins was a volunteer and fed the bears after Kilpatrick told him not to. However, the Workers’ Compensation Court found that Kilpatrick never told Hopkins not to feed the bears.
After entering the bear enclosure, Hopkins was attacked by the bears, and had to be flown to a hospital to treat his injuries. Because Kilpatrick did not have workers’ compensation insurance, Hopkins filed a claim with the Uninsured Employers’ Fund, which denied the claim because Hopkins had smoked marijuana before being mauled.
The Workers’ Compensation Court found Hopkins was employed by Kilpatrick at the time of his injuries; that he was performing duties within the scope of his employment; that his marijuana use was not the major contributing cause of his injuries, and he was not performing services in return for aid or sustenance only.
Kilpatrick appealed, but the state Supreme Court upheld the WCC ruling.
“We hold that the WCC’s findings of fact are supported by substantial credible evidence, and the conclusions of law are correct,” the court said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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