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Bear mauls stoned worker, judge adds insult to injury.

Let’s start off the week with another warning on the perils of marijuana.  Specifically, if you try to feed grizzly bears while stoned, they may try to eat you.

And that would be a compensable injury.

This actually happened in Montana – thanks to Kristie Wolter for providing the details.

Here’s the scene – at a tourist bear park, a guy ostensibly there as a volunteer – but getting paid – goes into a bear pen with food and gets mauled, escaping only by crawling under the electric fence.  Goes to hospital, then files a WC claim.  Park owner says the guy’s a volunteer so no WC, guy gets lawyer, goes to court, and judge renders opinion.

Which says, in part:

“[Bear park owner] Kilpatrick’s testimony that he gave Hopkins money on multiple occasions, “out of my heart” coincidentally while Hopkins was performing “favors” for Kilpatrick at the bear park is not credible. There is a term of art used to describe the regular exchange of money for favors – it is called “employment.” [emphasis added]

Further, Kilpatrick asserted that Hopkins’ decision to get stoned was a/the major contributor to Hopkins’ injury.

Again, the judge:

“Hopkins admitted to smoking marijuana before arriving at work on the morning of the attack, I cannot conclude based on the evidence before me that the major contributing cause of the grizzly bear attack was anything other than the grizzly. It is not as if this attack occurred when Hopkins inexplicably wandered into the grizzly pen while searching for the nearest White Castle. [emphasis added] Hopkins was attacked while performing a job Kilpatrick had paid him to do – feeding grizzly bears. The fact that the grizzly attacked Hopkins while he was performing this job is not exactly a “man bites dog” event. When a grizzly bear is sighted on a trail in Glacier National Park, the trail is closed to all hikers, not just the hikers who may have recently smoked marijuana. Kilpatrick installed multiple electrified fence lines at the bear park to separate the grizzly bears from all customers, not just the customers who may have recently smoked marijuana. When it comes to attacking humans, grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers; attacking without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or marijuana usage. Hopkins’ 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. [emphasis added]

And there you have it.  Our workers’ comp system protects even the mind-bogglingly stupid.  

One can only hope Mr Hopkins protects his progeny from similar disasters by not having any.

One thought on “Bear mauls stoned worker, judge adds insult to injury.”

  1. two important lessons
    1. drug screen even volunteers, especially if the task preformed, requires mental thought to be intact.
    2. Don’t give your volunteers money, even out of the goodness of your heart.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates



A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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