Teacher's roller skating accident lands permanent partial disability benefits
Case name: College Community School District v. Orris, No. 2-280/11-1848 (Iowa Ct. App. 06/27/12).
Ruling: The Iowa Court of Appeals held that a teacher was entitled to benefits for a 30 percent permanent partial disability.
What it means: In Iowa, the functional impairment and disability resulting from a scheduled loss should not be based on any anticipated deterioration of function that may occur in the future.
Summary: A middle school science teacher chaperoned a field trip to a roller skating rink. While skating, she fell and landed on her right wrist, arm, shoulder, and back. She was treated with pain medication, and her arm was placed in a sling. She was released from treatment with restrictions of no use of her right arm. She continued to teach with limited use of her arm. Later, she had surgery. She also began suffering from anxiety and depression. Two years after the injury, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She sought workers' compensation for her physical and mental injuries. The school district admitted that her right arm and shoulder injuries arose out of and in the course of her employment, but denied her claims of fibromyalgia and mental injury were causally related to the work injury. The Iowa Court of Appeals held that she was entitled to benefits for a 30 percent permanent partial disability.
The court found that the evidence of her condition at the time of the hearing supported a finding that she was capable of teaching full time. The court found that the workers' compensation commissioner did not improperly rely on a doctor's opinion that her fibromyalgia would resolve in six months.
Her personal physician opined that she needed a position where she could change positions frequently, and teaching would allow that. An occupational medicine specialist restricted her from lifting more than 20 pounds frequently. The specialist opined that the teacher was capable of greater physical activity than she believed she was capable of performing. A physical therapist observed that the teacher was engaged in "self-limiting behavior." A rheumatologist never restricted her from working and did not impose any work restrictions.
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August 30, 2012
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