Case name: Fitzpatrick v. Square D. and Insurance Co. of the State of Pennsylvania, No. 9-106/08-0945 (Iowa Ct. App. 03/26/09).
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the denial of the employee's claim for permanent partial disability benefits, affirming that the employee did not establish she had a permanent injury.
What it means:
Where credible medical evidence indicates that the claimant's back problems are related to a degenerative condition and prior back injuries rather than to a specific work injury she may not be entitled to permanent disability benefits.
The employee, an assembly line worker, injured her lower back lifting breakers. Before her work injury, she had a medical history of back problems, including being thrown off of a horse. Her doctor gave her permanent preventive work restrictions but described her pain as being due to her age, degenerative disc disease, and general level of conditioning. Her employer accommodated her light-duty work restrictions until she was offered a lucrative retirement package due to downsizing.
She appealed a lower court's finding that she was not entitled to permanent partial disability benefits based on the medical testimony that she had merely experienced a temporary aggravation of her preexisting low back condition.
The court observed that two testifying doctors, who had treated the employee for an extended period, opined that the employee's back condition predated her work injury and her symptoms were related to a degenerative condition of the back. The Court of Appeals disregarded the proffered testimony of one doctor, a public health specialist who only treated the employee one time and had not seen her entire medical history. This was the only doctor who assigned her a 5 percent impairment rating.
The Court of Appeals found substantial evidence that her injury was not permanently aggravated and disregarded her proffer of medical testimony to the contrary. The court affirmed the denial of PPD benefits.
May 7, 2009
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