Friday, July 26, 2013

Schwirse v. OCWP (9th Cir. - July 26, 2013)

Longshoremen don't get compensated for injuries on the job if the injuries result "solely by [their] intoxication."  Which seems reasonable.

Gary Schwirse was a longshoreman.  For whatever reason, he thought that a breakfast of two beers was a good idea.  So before going to work, that's what he did.  Certainly not to be recommended.  But there you have it.

Which nonetheless might have been fine.  But the same reasoning that suggested to him that two beers before 8:00 a.m. was a good idea also suggested that another three beers before lunch would be a good addition.  So he drank those too.

Five beers before noon.  I'm not exactly sure what Schwirse was doing as a longshoreman, but that seems risky.  Maybe not for someone working in an office.  But for a guy working on the docks?  Dangerous.  Not to mention troubling.

But now it's lunchtime.  Which means more beers.  Four to five, to be exact.

Seriously, Gary?!  This is not a college frat party.  This is your job.

Schwirse apparently gets that fact.  So after lunch, he switches to whiskey.  Drinking more than half a pint before work his work day ended at 4:00 p.m.


What happens now?  Well, among other things, Gary's got to pee.  Hmmm.  Let's see.  Where should he go?  In the statutorily required bathroom provided by his employer, perhaps?

That'd be rational.  But did I mention how much Gary's been drinking?

So consistent with his earlier decisionmaking, Schwirse decides that it'd be much preferable to take a whiz near the bull rail on the dock.  Which bull rail, you might ask?  You know:  The one that's on the edge of a six-foot drop to a steel and concrete ledge below.


You can guess what happens next.  The intoxicated Schwirse falls over, injuring himself.  The hospital diagnoses him with acute alcohol ingestion -- his BAC is .25.  Oh, yeah.  And cannibis ingestion as well.  Because nothing says "Fun At The Docks" like the buzz of ten beers and a half pint of whiskey combining with the effects of weed.

He then seeks compensation benefits for his injury.  Proof positive that although his head was injured in the fall, his gonads are working full-time.

The ALJ actually grants the guy relief.  But the Benefits Review Board says "No way."  A finding that the Ninth Circuit affirms.

Thankfully.  Because if we're paying someone benefits for stuff like this, I'm not going to be happy.  I'm not sure what employment structure permits a guy to get totally wasted on the job without any apparent detection.  But when it happens, it seems like concepts of personal responsibility and the like should get in the way of giving the guy money.

Whatever.  Today I learned that the docks in Oregon may be an even more of a rough-and-tumble place than I initially thought.  (Though I also thought the longshoremen thereupon would uniformly be a lot, lot smarter than Schwirse was here.)