If you’re a worker who has sustained injuries while at work and later becomes unable to perform light duties due to substance abuse, don’t expect the Supreme Court to side with you when you ask for workers’ compensation. A substance abuser from South Australia learned this the hard way when his bid for workers’ compensation was dismissed 2-1 by the Supreme Court in 2010.
Incapacity to work a result of substance abuse
Noel Seal, a fitter and turner for a company now owned by Transfield Services (Australia) Pty Ltd., sustained injuries to his right shoulder in October 2000 while on the job. For the next six years, Seal has tried to report back for work, with modified duties due to his injuries. However, in August 2006, Seal was told that he’s no longer entitled to weekly compensation payments, for the reason that his incapacity to work is a result of substance abuse. Seal was said to have a daily dose of 12 cans of beer, a bottle of scotch, and seven cones of marijuana at that time.
Seal successfully appealed his case to the Workers Compensation Tribunal (WCT), but Transfield filed an appeal of its own. Eventually, WCT Deputy President Judge Peter Hannon junked Seal’s claim that his work injury is to blame for his substance abuse. Hannon’s ruling was then upheld by a WCT full bench.
Seal brought the case to the Supreme Court, which promptly dismissed the case with a full bench. One of the Justices, Justice Thomas Gray, was of the opinion that work was not to blame for Seal’s problems related to drug abuse. The personal lifestyle choices Seal has made over the years are.
“He was, as a consequence, a danger to other workers. His substance abuse had rendered him unemployable”, said Justice Gray.
To read the decision in full, click here.