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Glossary Check: Iowa ‘Odd Lot’ Doctrine

23 Jun, 2023 Frank Ferreri

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Des Moines, IA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- In Dr. Claire Muselman's second part to her Iowa case law update, she highlights Shadlow v. Loves Travel Stops, for a point it makes about the "odd-lot" doctrine.

So, what is the doctrine?

As Michaeal Eberhart Construction v. Curtin, 674 N.W. 2d 123 (Iowa 2004) explained, a worker becomes an odd-lot employee when an injury makes the worker incapable of obtaining employment in any well-known branch of the labor market. An odd-lot worker is thus totally disabled if the only services the worker can perform are “so limited in quality, dependability, or quantity that a reasonably stable market for them does not exist.”

The doctrine has been a part of Iowa law only since 1985, when the state's top court adopted it in Guyton v. Iring Jensen Co., 373 N.W. 2d 101 (Iowa 1985) by borrowing from a Minnesota case, Lee v. Minneapolis St. Ry., 41 N.W. 2d 433 (Minn. 1950).

The doctrine functions as a burden shifting tool whereby if testimony discloses that the worker made a reasonable effort to secure employment in the area of residence, the burden of going forward with evidence to show the availability of suitable employment is on the employer and carrier.

The Curtin court ultimately found that the Workers' Compensation Deputy Commissioner abused his discretion by allowing the claimant to amend his petition, after the record was closed, to assert the odd-lot doctrine.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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