The widow of a construction worker who was struck and killed by a truck should be able to receive workers’ compensation insurance benefits, despite the likelihood that he was intoxicated at the time of the accident, an appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The decision by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal stemmed from the April 2015 death of Matthew Inmon, who was killed while walking along U.S. 1 in Volusia County after being at a bar, according to court records.
Inmon’s employer had contracted to do a job in Volusia County and paid for Inmon to stay in a hotel and provided a per-diem. A state law allows employees who are required to travel for work and get injured while traveling to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Inmon’s widow, Beverly, filed a claim for death benefits and funeral expenses. But Judge of Compensation Claims William Holley last year denied the benefits, pointing to evidence that Inmon had been stumbling and that he had been “in the road when he was struck.
It is also reasonable to determine that the claimants’ intoxication was the reason why he was in and out of the road.”
But the appeals court Wednesday rejected the conclusion, in part because of a lack of evidence that Inmon was in the road at the time of the accident.
The appeals court said, for example, it was possible that a truck veered off the road and struck Inmon.
“In short, the JCC’s deduction that the employee was in the road at the time of the collision is based on inferences with no direct evidence,” said the five-page ruling, written by Chief Judge Brad Thomas and joined by judges Harvey Jay and M. Kemmerly Thomas. “Stacked upon this inference is the inference that the employee could only have been in the road because he was intoxicated. This is an impermissible stacking of inferences to establish an essential finding of fact.”