September 18, 2017 Article

Workers' Comp Alert: Maine Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Two Workers' Compensation Matters Involving Old-age Social Security Offset and Medical Marijuana

Maine Workers' Comp Alert

The Maine Supreme Court heard oral argument in two workers’ compensation cases on September 13, 2017.

In Victor Urrutia v. Interstate Brands International, WCB 16-524, an Administrative Law Judge ordered that the employer and insurer were entitled to an offset against future workers’ compensation incapacity benefits to an employee because the employer and insurer had paid benefits to the employee for years while the employee also received old-age social security benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division reversed, holding that the credit for social security benefits can only be taken at the time incapacity benefits are paid—not at a later point in time. The employer and insurer appealed, asserting that the Act allows it to receive a credit for the overpayment of benefits to an employee while that employee was also receiving old-age social security benefits.

In Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co., LLC, WCB 16-433, an Administrative Law Judge ordered the employer and insurer to reimburse the employee for his purchases of medical marijuana for pain-related purposes. The Workers’ Compensation Board Appellate Division affirmed the order. The employer and insurer appealed, arguing (1) the Board is preempted by federal law, which finds possession of marijuana to be illegal; (2) there was insufficient evidence to overcome the presumption created by the § 312 examiner’s findings that marijuana is not effective to relieve pain; (3) there is insufficient evidence establishing that marijuana is safe and effective; and (4) because Maine’s medical marijuana act does not require a “private health insurer” to cover the cost of medical marijuana, and because “private health insurer” should be construed to include an employer who pays for an employee’s medical treatment, an employer should not be ordered to pay for the cost of medical marijuana.

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