Over the past three years, Jenifer Dana Kaufman of Kaufman Workers’ Compensation Act in Abington Township, Pa., tried to recoup costs incurred by its customers for medical marijuana to treat pain from work-related injuries.
She’s lost every time – until now.
With an ordinance of June 2, workers compensation Judge Rochelle Quiggle of Pottsville, Pennsylvania, local office, ruled that Kaufman’s client’s claims were reasonable and that his former employer’s insurer should reimburse him for approximately $ 4,000 of medical marijuana and cover future costs of his treatments, which amount to approximately $ 400. $ per month.
“I believe this is the first time a judge has done this in Pennsylvania. I have argued similar claims before, but this is my first victory, even though I have appeals pending before the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and Commonwealth Court, ”Kaufman said. “It is an interesting and evolving area of law. “
Often times, such claims are dismissed due to the conflict between state law, which legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and federal law, which does not, she said.
“It’s a start,” Kaufman said. “There must be a first.
The judge ruled that Kaufman’s client, a home help, had a credible story and told it in the order. She was seriously injured in 2015 while driving from one client’s home to another. A car crossed the center line and hit it head-on. His car overturned. She was trapped inside for 20 minutes. She was taken to a trauma hospital, where she stayed for 10 days. She had three broken ribs and broken legs, feet and toes. This is in addition to injuries to the hands and wrists.
Despite this, she recovered from most of her injuries, but she suffered from persistent nerve pain in her ankle and leg. Sometimes it felt like an electric shock waking her up at night. Her pain during the day sometimes looked like a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. She didn’t want to take narcotics. Other drugs had side effects that interfered with her ability to work. But she found a medical marijuana oil that she put in capsules and took daily to relieve the pain enough that she could work two jobs – each 32 hours a week – one as a home aide and another as a daycare attendant.
The judge noted the credibility of a person choosing an alternative to opioid pain relievers and using prescription cannabis for two jobs.
Michael Sebastian represented the insurers in the case, Arch and Gallagher Bassett Services. Sebastian did not have an immediate response to a request for comment. They have 20 days to appeal. If they do, Kaufman said she would continue to plead the issue.
“There are a lot of people who use medical marijuana to treat their injuries at work,” she said. “There is tremendous pressure to get people off opioids. Insurance companies want to get people off opioids. But then they wouldn’t pay for medical marijuana.
But Kaufman said Quiggle’s order gives him hope that the trend will change for a large group of people injured during physically demanding work.