Removal of shoulder parts during surgery doesn't create impairment
Case name: Westling v. Hormel Goods Corp., No. 0-816/10-0795 (Iowa Ct. App. 02/09/11).
Ruling: The Iowa Court of Appeals held that a worker was not entitled to permanent partial disability benefits for his right shoulder injury.
What it means: In Iowa, the American Medical Association Guides are just guides, and the court is not required to follow them in determining permanent partial disabilities.
A worker for a food company was pulling casings off pepperoni when he felt a sharp pain in his right shoulder. The next month, he was diagnosed with a rotator cuff strain. When physical therapy failed to alleviate his pain, he saw an orthopedic surgeon. During surgery, the surgeon debrided the labrum, freed a spur, and removed an acromion hook. A few months after surgery, the worker retired after having worked for the company for 30 years. The worker filed for permanent partial disability benefits. The company admitted that the worker sustained a work-related injury, but denied the injury caused a permanent disability. The Iowa Court of Appeals held the worker was not entitled to benefits.
The worker asserted that because his surgery involved the "removal of parts of his shoulder," so he met the definition of impairment from the American Medical Association Guides. The court disagreed, stating that it was not required to follow the Guides. Additionally, an independent medical examiner opined that the worker's shoulder complaints were likely due to arthritis. The worker's treating doctor also did not think he had a permanent impairment. Therefore, the worker failed to establish a causal connection between his work injury and his claimed shoulder disability.
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March 14, 2011
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