Worker's incarceration, family problems nix comp for depression
Case name: Gallo v. Penford Products Co., No. 3-081/12-1472 (Iowa Ct. App. 03/13/13).
The Iowa Court of Appeals held that a worker was entitled to permanent partial disability benefits for his back injury, but he was not entitled to benefits for his depression.
What it means: In Iowa, a worker's depression may not be compensable if he has other problems that caused his symptoms.
A warehouse worker injured his lower back dislodging a 50-pound bag of product from a palletizer machine. He received pain medication from various physicians. Later, he was arrested for impersonating a physician to obtain prescription pain medication. He had a history of drug abuse and an addition to narcotic pain relievers dating back 10 years before his work injury. The worker entered into a drug rehabilitation program. He had symptoms of depression. He continued to work 56 hours per week for two years after his injury until the employer terminated him when it learned about his conviction for impersonating a physician.
The worker sought permanent total disability benefits for his back injury and depression. The Iowa Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to PPD benefits for his back injury but he was not entitled to benefits for his depression.
The parties agreed that the worker sustained a work-related injury to his back arising out of and in the scope of his employment. The court found that he suffered a 60 percent loss of earning capacity. A vocational expert found that he had realistic job prospects but was unwilling to fully participate in the job search. Also, he continued to work 56 hours per week for two years, during a time he claimed he was permanently and totally disabled.
The court also concluded that the worker's depression was not related to his work injury. His medical records showed that he had an inability to sleep, panic attacks, and social anxiety disorder before his work injury. There were also a number of factual circumstances that could explain his depressive behavior, including his incarceration, stress of his workers' compensation case, financial problems, and family problems.
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June 24, 2013
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