Doctor's finding of maximum medical improvement for post-traumatic stress disorder entitles nurse to benefits
Case name: Broadlawns Medical Center v. Sanders, No. 08-1643 (Iowa 12/23/10).
Ruling: The Iowa Supreme Court held that a nurse was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder.
What it means: In Iowa, any disability that remains after a stabilization of a condition will support an award of PPD benefits to the extent the residual impairment decreases the worker's earning capacity.
Summary: A certified nursing assistant at a group home for the mentally ill discovered a client who had hung herself. Later, she was required to clean the room. As a result, she began having flashbacks, nightmares, and olfactory hallucinations. Three doctors diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder. One doctor restricted her from working at the home. Nearly a year after the incident, the doctor reported that the nurse was at maximum medical improvement. Later, the doctor again stated that she reached MMI and had a mild impairment. The nurse sought PPD benefits. The home said that she suffered a psychological injury but argued that it was not permanent. The Iowa Supreme Court held that the nurse reached MMI, resulting in a permanent disability entitling her to PPD benefits.
The court explained that substantial evidence supported a finding that the nurse's injury was permanent. The nurse's doctor said multiple times that she reached MMI. Although the home relied on a letter from the doctor in which he stated that her condition "should resolve over time" and he could not say her condition was permanent, the court noted that the doctor did not give a medical opinion that her condition would improve or that her condition was not permanent. The doctor also concluded that there was nothing further he could offer the nurse in terms of treatment.
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February 7, 2011
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