Supreme Court rules attorney's drug addiction could be work-related

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- A former assistant district attorney who alleged that job stress led her to prescription drug addiction was improperly denied a workers compensation claim, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court ordered the Alaska Workers' Compensation Board to reconsider its 1996 decision to deny the claim of Jacquelyn Parris-Eastlake.

Parris-Eastlake, a former assistant district attorney in Fairbanks, filed her claim in 1995 alleging her addiction to prescription drugs was work-related.

She sought compensation for the drug addiction, headaches and neck and back pains.

A two-member workers' compensation panel denied her claim in October 1996 without considering her physical ailments. The panel ruled that by exaggerating symptoms of pain and deceiving physicians to get drugs she showed that she was under the ongoing influence of drugs.

The Alaska Workers' Compensation Act forbids compensation for injuries caused while improperly under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

But the state Supreme Court ruled in a 4-0 opinion that the drug addiction was the injury, and not simply the cause of the injury. Justice Walter L. Carpeneti did not participate in the ruling.

Parris-Eastlake began receiving regularly prescribed narcotic painkillers for headaches and occasional neck and back pain. She received morphine, Demerol, Percocet and Vicodin after surgery for a herniated disk in 1994.

She testified in earlier proceedings that she eventually began using painkillers to deal with stress rather than to treat the pain. Parris-Eastlake checked into a drug detoxification center and agreed to resign from her job in August 1995.

The state High Court ordered the panel to again review her claim of drug addiction, headaches and neck and back pain.

It also said that if panel members John Giuchici and William Walters cannot agree whether her addiction was work related, a third member should break the tie.

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