New Hampshire—Workers Compensation Marijuana Reimbursement
On March 2, 2021, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire ruled as an issue of first impression, in
Appeal of Andrew Panaggio, that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) does not preempt the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (the Board) from ordering an insurer to reimburse a claimant for medical marijuana expenses incurred as a workers compensation treatment.
In its decision, the court found there would be no direct conflict between the CSA and an order by the Board to reimburse the claimant for his medical marijuana purchase because the CSA does not criminalize the act of insurance reimbursement for an employee’s purchase of marijuana. The court also considered whether an insurer would be guilty of aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime when ordered to reimburse a claimant for medical marijuana and, citing related decisions from other states, concluded that complying with an order requiring reimbursement lacks the requisite intent and active participation necessary for the federal charge of aiding and abetting. The court further noted that the CSA does not purport to regulate insurance practices and an order of reimbursement does not interfere with the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA.
The court previously addressed reimbursement for marijuana treatment in workers compensation in March 2019 in this same case, which we reported on here. At that time, the court ruled on a different issue in the case—finding that a workers compensation insurer was not prohibited by state law from reimbursing a claimant’s medical marijuana expenses. With that decision, the court remanded the case to the Board to provide further support on the issue of federal preemption and whether federal law would be violated if an insurer was
affirmatively ordered to reimburse for marijuana treatment.
Arizona—Workers Compensation for Mental Injuries
On March 2, 2021, the Supreme Court of Arizona, in
France v. The Industrial Commission of Arizona, clarified the standard that applies to determining whether a mental injury arises from an “unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress related to the employment” that was a “contributing cause of the mental injury” under Arizona statute § 23-1043.01(B), so as to be eligible for workers compensation benefits.
The court held that, under § 23-1043.01(B), a work-related injury is compensable if the specific event causing the injury was objectively “unexpected, unusual or extraordinary.” Under this objective standard, the court clarified that the injury-causing event must be examined from the standpoint of a reasonable employee with the same or similar job duties and training as the claimant, as opposed to the claimant’s subjective reaction to the event.
Applying the clarified standard, the court set aside the Arizona Industrial Commission’s decision denying benefits to a deputy sheriff diagnosed with PTSD from a work-related event. The court reasoned that the event (a fatal shooting) was not the type of incident that was part of a law enforcement officer’s daily routine, and that it was not expected that a deputy would encounter such a dramatic event while responding to a welfare check.
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