W.Va. SC denies request by Wendy's employee for benefits

Chief Justice Menis Ketchum

CHARLESTON - The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, in a ruling last week, sided with popular fast food chain Wendy's in denying a former employee's request for workers' compensation benefits.

Pamela Paynter, who was working for the chain when she was allegedly injured while on the job, appealed to the state's high court over the state Workers' Compensation Board of Review's order denying her benefits.

In its final order dated Jan. 26, 2011, the board affirmed an Aug. 5, 2010 order by the Workers' Compensation Office of Judges.

In its order, the Office of Judges upheld a Feb. 5, 2009 decision by a claims administrator denying Paynter's claim.

Paynter was given a saliva swab test by the company and later checked for drugs at a hospital while being treated for her injuries.

The Office of Judges, in its decision, concluded that the injury was self-inflicted due to the woman's "drug-intoxicated condition."

On appeal, Paynter argued that the substances found in her system were for treatment of some of the conditions asserted in her workers' compensation claim and, therefore, she should be entitled to benefits.

Wendy's International Inc. -- the parent company of Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers -- maintained that no compensable injury occurred.

The chain cited West Virginia Code § 23-4-2(a), arguing that the injury was caused by Paynter's drug-intoxicated state.

In its memorandum decision filed Sept. 14, the state's high court sided with Wendy's -- and the workers' compensation board and Office of Judges.

"The Office of Judges noted that the saliva swab test taken by Wendy's International Inc. was positive for benzodiazepines and opiates," the Court wrote in its two-page ruling.

"The evidence did not indicate these substances were being used for treatment of a condition."

The Court concluded that the board's decision is "not in clear violation of any constitutional or statutory provision," nor is it based on a "material misstatement or mischaracterization of the evidentiary record."

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