Amazing North Carolina Workers' Compensation News – Pot Smoker Finally Gets Comp for Grizzly Bear Mauling Incident

April 13, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Last year, this North Carolina workers’ compensation blog reported one of the most astounding stories in recent workers’ comp history. The case involved Brock Hopkins, a man mauled by grizzly bears at a park in Montana (Great Bear Adventures). Hopkins was stoned on marijuana, when he fed the bear that mauled him. The Montana Supreme Court last Tuesday ruled that Hopkins should be entitled to workers’ comp from the park, despite acting “mindbogglingly stupid” that fateful day when the perturbed grizzly (“Red”) severely injured the toker.

Initially, Hopkins’ bid for compensation was denied. Russ Kilpatrick, the owner of Grizzly Great Bear Adventures, claimed that Hopkins was not an employee of the park – even though he did pay Hopkins a stipend. Kilpatrick also told the young man in no uncertain terms that he should NOT feed the bears.

Nevertheless, the Montana Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling in a unanimous decision – stating that grizzly bears are “equal opportunity maulers.” Thus, the fact that Hopkins was high on marijuana was not relevant. The court also found that Hopkins had been acting in the capacity of an employee of the park; ergo, he should get the compensation.

This case seems like a Scooby Doo adventure gone horribly wrong. But Hopkins’ claim to comp is not as absurd as some of his detractors have suggested.

North Carolina workers’ compensation is a “grand bargain” between employers and employees. The system evolved during the early 1900s to distinguished workers’ comp from lawsuit-related compensation. Injured workers gave up rights to sue in exchange for the right to be able to collect compensation without having to prove “fault.”

So, while Great Bear Adventures was not at fault in this case; since Hopkins was an “employee” of the park at the time of his mauling, he should get the compensation, despite his outrageously reckless behavior.

Most workers’ comp stories are not laughing matters. Many situations can be terrifically tragic, particularly for victims who suffer a double insult when an insurance company denies a rightful claim. Get help with your North Carolina workers’ compensation issues by connecting with a quality, experienced legal team to assert your rights and get the benefits you and your family need.

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Great Bear Adventures

Kilpatrick also told the young man in no uncertain terms that he should NOT feed the bears