Driver smoked cannabis before crash

01:52, May 31 2012

A Waimate truck driver who crashed into a tree after using cannabis has lost a claim for compensation and has instead been ordered to pay nearly $10,000 to his employer.

The Employment Relations Authority ruled last Friday that Rooney Earthmoving Ltd was justified in dismissing Gary Goodman and ordered him to pay the company for damage to the truck.

On June 10 last year, Goodman was driving a truck and trailer, carrying lime, on State Highway 83 near Peebles in North Otago.

He pulled out to pass a tractor and believed he had enough time to return to his own side of the road before having to turn right into Gibson Rd.

As he pulled out, an oncoming car appeared and Goodman turned too quickly into Gibson Rd, skidding into a tree on the corner.

The accident caused over $10,000 damage to the Mercedes-Benz truck.

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Goodman said the accident was caused by his tyres being worn and the brakes on the trailer being soft.

However, a truck driver who had been following him said it was Goodman's fault and he should not have done the manoeuvre with so little time before he had to turn.

After the crash, Goodman tested positive for cannabis use - 289 nanograms of cannabinoids per millilitre of urine.

A disciplinary meeting was held, at which Goodman said he had smoked a cannabis joint four days before the crash but did not agree that he would have been driving under the influence at the time of the accident.

He admitted that he was a recreational cannabis user and said he used cannabis to keep glaucoma at bay.

"I don't usually smoke it. I usually eat it as a way of consuming it," he said.

"It still does get into my system, yeah. I'm going to have to cease and get medical advice for treatment of the glaucoma instead."

After the meeting, Rooney Earthmoving fired Goodman on the basis that he "regularly ate cannabis".

Goodman claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed and asked for $8000 in compensation for distress caused, as well as lost wages and court costs.

Rooney Earthmoving counter-claimed for the cost of damage to the company vehicle.

ERA member David Appleton ruled that Goodman's dismissal was justified as "to learn that one of his trusted truck drivers was apparently a regular user of cannabis, whether by smoking it or eating it, would have legitimately caused Mr Rooney serious concerns as to the sustainability of Mr Goodman's continued employment".

Appleton said the fact Goodman had "attempted to overtake a tractor on a stretch of wet road with a fully laden trailer, which would have weighed in the region of 40 tonnes, when he knew he had to turn right in less than 700 metres" was negligent and in breach of his duties towards his employer.

Goodman was ordered to pay $9310 to Rooney Earthmoving for the damage caused by the accident.

The Press