Iowa Commission Expands Industrial Disability Liability: Review of Commission Decision in Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
March 29, 2022
The Iowa Commission recently affirmed a 2021 case that changes how we approach claimants with injuries to more than one body part stemming from the same accident. In Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. and Second Injury Fund, the claimant sustained both a rotator cuff tear and carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive work duties culminating on October 31, 2018. These were injuries both at the level of the shoulder and at the level of the arm. The Deputy Commissioner held the claimant should be compensated based on industrial disability, rather than functional impairment based on Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(v).
This section states, in part: “In all cases of permanent partial disability other than those described or referred to in paragraphs “a” through “u,” the compensation shall be paid during the number of weeks in relation to five hundred weeks as the reduction in the employee’s earning capacity . . .”
Subsections “m” and “n,” for the arm and shoulder, did not apply to this case since claimant had injured both the arm and shoulder, not just one or the other. Subsection “t,” which states: [t]he loss of both arms, or both hands, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or any two thereof, caused by a single accident, shall equal five hundred weeks,” did not apply since the shoulder is not mentioned. As no one subsection applied to the injuries in this case, claimant was entitled to industrial disability under subsection “v.” Rather than being limited to functional disability only, claimants with multiple injuries like this one can recover for loss of earning capacity, which increases the insurer’s liability.
The takeaway from this decision is that any accident or repetitive trauma that results in injuries to multiple body parts, as long as at least one of them is left out of subsection “t” (arms, hands, feet, legs, eyes), qualifies for compensation based on industrial disability. While it was previously settled that injuries to three or more body parts from the same accident or repetitive trauma could trigger industrial disability exposure, this has now been extended to any two body parts.
When analyzing injuries to multiple body parts, make sure you are including an industrial disability analysis when planning your reserves. If you have any questions on this decision, or any of your claims in the State of Iowa, please contact Wiedner and McAuliffe by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 816-381-8414.