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Iowa Workers’ Compensation Symposium Offers In-Depth Analysis of Recent Agency Case Law Updates (Part 2 of 4)

23 Jun, 2023 Claire Muselman

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Part Two: Permanent Disability, Layoffs, Surgical Procedures, and the Odd-Lot Doctrine

Des Moines, IA - The 61st Annual Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium continued with a highly informative session on agency case law updates. Esteemed legal professionals Jordan Gehlhaar from Peddicord Wharton and Bryant Engbers from Spaulding & Shaull took the stage, providing attendees valuable insights into significant developments in Iowa's workers' compensation system. Held at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott in Des Moines, Iowa, the event attracted legal practitioners, policymakers, and industry experts eager to stay on top of the latest workers' compensation law changes.

The session featured a comprehensive discussion of several notable cases, covering various issues, including permanent disability, extended seasonal layoffs, rating of surgical procedures, interpretation of statutory language, and the application of the odd-lot doctrine. Each case highlighted essential workers' compensation law aspects and provided crucial guidance for legal professionals navigating the system's intricacies.

One of the pivotal cases examined during the session was Hastings v. Orkin Pest Control, which tackled whether the claimant was permanently and totally disabled. The claimant successfully met the burden of proof for permanent and total disability by presenting compelling evidence. This evidence included the claimant's motivation to perform physically demanding jobs beyond his capabilities, the permanent restrictions that prevented him from returning to his previous employment, an employability assessment that highlighted his lack of computer skills, and the inability to use his commercial driver's license (CDL), and a poor record of supporting the claim that he could secure employment strictly in sales, which used to be part of his job duties.

The issue of extended seasonal layoffs and industrial compensation was thoroughly explored in Nehring v. Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. This case revolved around a claimant who suffered a shoulder and neck injury, leading to a dispute over the claimant's entitlement to industrial compensation under Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(v). While the claimant experienced a layoff period during winter in his position, it was established that he traditionally performed maintenance tasks before the injury. However, his injury prevented him from completing the winter maintenance due to the imposed restrictions. The Deputy Commissioner ruled that the claimant was eligible for functional impairment compensation as he returned to work or was offered employment with the same hourly wage and hours post-injury and pre-layoff. This decision underscored the legislative intent of encouraging employers to retain injured employees and provide them with wages equal to or greater than their pre-injury earnings.

Jay v. Archer Skid Loader Serv., LLC offered valuable insights into the rating of a distal clavicle excision procedure under the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides. In this case, the claimant sustained a shoulder injury and underwent surgical intervention, including a distal clavicle excision. While the treating physician assigned a permanent impairment rating for loss of range of motion, no specific impairment rating was given for the excision. However, an independent medical examiner assessed impairment for both the loss of range of motion and the excision. The Deputy Commissioner adopted the opinion of the independent medical examiner, considering the AMA Guides and the legislative mandate to determine functional impairment using the 5th Edition of the AMA Guides. The case also addressed the application of modifiers to the rating, resulting in a reduced impairment rating for the excision.

Newburry v. The Lutheran Home for the Aged Ass'n delved into the interpretation of "offered work" under Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(v) and its implications for industrial disability analysis. The claimant, a certified nursing assistant, suffered a back injury while assisting a resident. The defendant-employer argued that offering the claimant his previous position at the same pay, regardless of his ability to perform the job, fulfilled the statute's requirements. However, the Deputy Commissioner ruled that the claimant must be capable of performing the offered work, emphasizing the legislative intent to prevent employers from evading liability by providing jobs that injured employees cannot perform. This case underscored the significance of actual work performance in determining eligibility for industrial disability benefits.

Weimerskirch v. Progressive Processing LLC examined the impact of a voluntary resignation on the analysis of industrial disability versus functional impairment under Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(v). The claimant resigned after sustaining injuries and obtained new employment with higher earnings. The Deputy Commissioner determined that the claimant remained entitled to industrial disability analysis as he had voluntarily separated from the defendant-employer before the hearing, triggering his entitlement to benefits using the industrial disability analysis.

Derifield v. John Deere Waterloo Works clarified the classification of a right shoulder injury extending into the bicep and its implications for workers' compensation proceedings. The case established that such injuries fell within the scope of a scheduled member claim, as the Iowa Supreme Court's interpretation of "shoulder" included all essential components for shoulder function. This ruling provided valuable guidance for legal practitioners handling similar cases.

Lastly, Shadlow v. Loves Travel Stops focused on the issue of permanent and total disability under the odd-lot doctrine. The claimant, labeled as 60% disabled by the Department of Veteran's Affairs before his employment with Love's, slipped and fell at work, resulting in permanent restrictions that led to his release. Although the claimant found a new job, his symptoms worsened, resulting in termination. The Deputy Commissioner determined that the claimant met the burden of proof for permanent and total disability under the odd-lot doctrine, as the claimant's services were of such limited quality, dependability, or quantity that a reasonably stable market for them did not exist.

The session gave attendees knowledge and insights into disability assessments, layoff periods, surgical procedures, statutory interpretations, and the odd-lot doctrine. These updates in agency case law contribute to the ongoing development of workers' compensation practices in Iowa, ensuring fair and effective outcomes for all parties involved. By fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration among industry experts, the Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium continues to play a vital role in shaping the state's future of workers' compensation law.

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    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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