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City fails to prove urine sample arrived at lab with seal intact

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the finding that a city of Gary employee was discharged but not for just cause. The judges pointed to incomplete paperwork regarding an on-site screen custody form.

Guadalupe Franco, an electro-mechanic for the city of Gary’s Sanitary District, was injured on the job and received treatment at Comprehensive Care. While there, he received an injection for pain and provided a urine sample for drug testing. The on-site screening custody form contains instructions and files to be completed in six steps – with the sixth step completed by MedTox, where the urine sample was sent for further testing after it came back “non-negative” for cocaine metabolite.

The sample was tested at MedTox, which also received a positive result for cocaine. But MedTox did not complete the sixth step on the form which provided a field for the date and a signature from the lab; the lab did, however, generate a report that contained matching numbers as found on the custody form, listed the tests required and identified the sample as Franco’s.

The city fired Franco and he sought unemployment benefits. He disputed the drug test results, claiming he never took the drug and has never had a positive drug test during the time he worked for the city. The administrative law judge ruled in favor of Franco and the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development affirmed 2-1.

“Given the fact that relevant fields of steps five and six were not completed, the importance of these steps in the chain of custody, and the serious consequence for an employee of a positive drug test result, we decline to infer, from the fact that test results identifying Franco were sent by MedTox to Comprehensive Care, that the seal must have been intact and that the City met its burden with respect to the chain of custody,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote in City of Gary v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and Guadalupe T. Franco, 93A02-1312-EX-1016. “This does not have the effect of imposing an impossible burden on the City as it could have produced a copy of the custody form with the relevant fields completed or the testimony or an affidavit of the persons who received, checked the seal of, and tested Franco’s sample. The City bore the initial burden of establishing that Franco was terminated for just cause.”

“The deputy, the ALJ, and the Board concluded sufficient information had not been provided to sustain the City’s burden of proof or to show the chain of custody was reliable. There is sufficient evidence to support the Board’s findings and sufficient facts to support its decision, and we cannot say the Board’s conclusion is unreasonable.”

 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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