Jun 4, 2010 11:33 AM by Dennis Bragg (KPAX Missoula)
A state judge has extending workers compensation to a Kalispell man, while saying his decision to use marijuana before feeding grizzly bears was "ill advised".
The comments come in a recent Montana Worker's Compensation Court case involving Brock Hopkins, who was mauled while feeding the bears at the Great Bear Adventures Park in West Glacier three years ago.
The issue centered over the question of whether Hopkins was an actual employee when he was severely injured while feeding the bears shortly before the park shut down operations for the season.
Park owner Russell Kilpatrick maintained that Hopkins was really a volunteer.
Also in question was Hopkins smoking of marijuana - not for medicinal purposes - before he tried to feed the bears.
Judge James Jeremiah Shea, however, ruled that Hopkins was an employee who had been compensated and was "within the scope of his employment" while working at the park.
While the judge said it was "mind-bogglingly stupid" for Hopkins to have smoked pot and then entered the bear pen, he didn't find his impairment was a "major factor" in his mauling.
"When a grizzly bear is sighted on a trail in Glacier National Park, the trail is closed to all hikers, not just the hikers who may have recently smoked marijuana," the judge in the ruling. "Kilpatrick installed multiple electrified fence lines at the bear park to separate the grizzly bears from all customers, not just the customers who may have recently smoked marijuana. When it comes to attacking humans, grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers."
The ruling means that Hopkins will be able to recover at least some of his medical expenses stemming from the attack.
You can read more about this case at the WorkersCompInsider blog.