A Colorado family is currently being denied half of their late patriarch’s workers’ compensation benefits because legal marijuana was found in his system after he died.
Adam Lee worked as an electrician at the Loveland Ski Area ski and snowboarding resort. Unfortunately, in December of 2017, in the course of his duties, Lee was fatally crushed under a ski escalator conveyor belt, called, The Magic Carpet, while trying to fix an apparent malfunction. After Lee was stuck, which subsequently caused the Magic Carpet to stop, it was restarted and repeatedly run — seven times in all — with Lee still trapped underneath.
Under 2016 Colorado Revised Statutes’ title eight — Labor and Industry: Workers’ Compensation and Related Provisions, Limitation on payments – use of controlled substances, outlines that workers compensation may be reduced if the use of a controlled substance contributed to the cause of the accident.
Specifically, “Non-medical benefits otherwise payable to an injured worker are reduced fifty percent where the injury results from the presence in the worker’s system, during working hours, of controlled substances, that are not medically prescribed.”
The coroner’s toxicology report stated that Lee had 41 nanograms per milliliter of tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) in his system; however, it does not specify if the marijuana he consumed was medical or recreational, or if he was high or inebriated while at work, before the tragic accident.
THC usually stays in a user’s system for an average of 30 days (depending on a user’s unique metabolism, and other factors, such as diet and exercise.).
It is reasonable to speculate whether the magic carpet’s original mechanical failure, and it’s repetitive operation while Mr. Lee was tragically trapped underneath it, caused his untimely demise, rather than the THC in his system.
It is unknown at this time if his widow and the mother of his three children, Mrs. Erika Lee, plans to sue the manufacturer of the Magic Carpet or Loveland Ski Area, which operates it.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Lee is devastated. Compounding her grief and loss, her late husband’s workers’ compensation agency, Pinnacol decided to reduce the benefits she is entitled to by half – a loss of income of approximately $800 per month – per title eight.
Mrs. Lee is appealing their decision. An upcoming hearing before an administrative law judge is scheduled.
“I’m scared, and I have no idea how we are going to make it,” Mrs. Lee said during an exclusive interview with Denver’s KMGH-TV. “We don’t know if we will get any money at all, so I’m just looking at right now just how to survive. I am very frustrated with the system.”
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