Court Case Update, Minnesota—October 2021
On October 13, 2021, the Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled, in Musta v. Mendota Heights Dental Center, that the prohibition of marijuana possession under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) preempts an order made under Minnesota workers compensation law that requires an employer to reimburse an injured employee for the cost of medical marijuana used to treat a work-related injury. With this decision, the court reversed a ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals (WCCA) requiring an employer to reimburse an injured employee for medical marijuana as workers compensation treatment.
In its analysis, the court reviewed other state supreme court decisions addressing federal preemption of marijuana reimbursement in workers compensation and concluded that the CSA preempts mandated reimbursement of an employee’s medical cannabis purchases. The court noted that, although Congress has temporarily paused the federal prosecution of marijuana- related crimes, the risk of prosecution still exists because possession of marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. Moreover, the court added, mandating the employer to pay for medical marijuana can make the employer criminally liable for aiding and abetting the possession of marijuana under federal law.
The court also found that the WCCA could not decide the preemption issue because its jurisdiction is limited to legal questions and facts arising under workers compensation law.
Court Case Update, New Hampshire—October 2021
On October 13, 2021, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, in Appeal of Pelmac Industries, Inc., for the first time ruled that “the chain of causation test” is the proper standard for determining the compensability of a death by suicide under New Hampshire workers compensation law. The test permits an award of death benefits when there is an unbroken causal connection between a work-related injury, a disturbance of the mind, and a subsequent suicide.
The court held that under the “chain of causation test,” an employee’s death by suicide is compensable if the claimant can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the suicide resulted from a disturbance of mind of such severity as to override normal, rational judgment and that such disturbance of mind resulted from the employee’s work-related injury and its consequences. Under such circumstances, the employee’s death by suicide is not deemed a result of the employee’s willful intent or conduct, even though the act of suicide itself may be volitional.
With this ruling, the court upheld a decision by the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board awarding death benefits to the wife of a deceased employee who committed suicide a few months after sustaining severe work-related injuries.
For more information on other cases monitored by NCCI’s Legal Division, visit previous Court Case Updates and
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