Westling v. Hormel Foods Corp., No. 10-0795 (Iowa 02/10/12).
Ruling: The Iowa Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to permanent disability benefits.
What it means: In Iowa, when determining the extent of permanent disability resulting from unscheduled injuries, it must be decided whether the injury diminished the worker's earning capacity.
Summary: A worker for a food company experienced a sharp pain in his right shoulder while removing casings from meat products using a strip-out machine. He experienced a burning sensation and could not lift his arms above his head. A doctor diagnosed him with a rotator cuff strain. After physical therapy did not alleviate his pain, he saw an orthopedic surgeon, who thought he had a partial rotator cuff tear. During surgery, the surgeon discovered significant fraying of the labrum and a spur along the acromion. The surgeon did not discover a rotator cuff tear but removed the frayed labrum and freed the spur. After surgery, his pain improved, but he still felt a burning sensation when he extended his arm over his head or performed pushing or pulling. He sought permanent disability benefits. The Iowa Supreme Court held that he was not entitled to permanent disability benefits.
The worker contended that he was permanently impaired because the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment included permanent derangement of body structures in its definition of permanent impairment. He said his surgery resulted in permanent derangement of the structures in and around his shoulder. The court explained that the evidence did not conclusively establish that the surgery caused permanent physical impairment. The surgeon and an independent medical examiner opined that he did not have permanent physical impairment because of the surgery or overuse while working.
The court noted that the injury was unscheduled and therefore was determined by industrial disability rather than functional impairment. The court found that the worker failed to show the work-related injury caused industrial disability. Even if he proved that his surgery resulted in a permanent physical impairment, the work-related injury did not produce a loss of earning capacity.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
March 26, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications