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The Arizona Supreme Court unanimously knocked down a state law that let insurers deny claims for on-the-job injuries at drug-free workplaces if workers test positive for drugs or alcohol. The Supreme Court said it recognized “compelling policy reasons” for a 1999 law banning drug and alcohol use in the workplace, but said the law conflicts with an Arizona Constitution mandate that the fault of the injured employee cannot be considered in work-related injury claims. The law cannot stand “unless and until the constitution is changed,” Justice Michael D. Ryan wrote in Wednesday’s ruling. The ruling Wednesday came in two cases that had produced separate, conflicting appeals court rulings. In one case, an appeals court panel ruled in favor of a drug-using worker on grounds that state law cannot prohibit workers’ compensation benefits to drug-abusers even if on-the-job risks and dangers contributed to their injuries. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling. The worker involved was injured when he fell while walking through a cluttered job site where he had installed metal trim on a building. The Supreme Court overturned a separate ruling by another court panel that went against a worker who tested positive for alcohol after being injured when his arm got caught in a conveyor belt. That ruling said that a claim for benefits cannot be paid if impairment from alcohol or substance abuse was anything more than a slight contributing cause to the injury. A small-business lobby, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, had urged the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling in favor of the construction worker, saying if it was upheld, workers would have little incentive to be drug and alcohol free on the job. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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