NEW IOWA LAW CONCERNING FALLS IN IOWA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASES

Today I just have a short post about a new Iowa law designed to overrule an Iowa Supreme Court case that was decided on November 21, 2018.  The case in question is Bluml v. Dee Jay’s, Inc. d/b/a Long John Silvers and Commerce & Industry Insurance Company.  I wrote about the Bluml case back on November 21, 2018.  You can see my entire article about the Bluml case here.

Part of my take-away from the Bluml case was that the Iowa Supreme Court helped sort out how different types of falls would be handled in Iowa workers’ compensation cases:

  1. Where an employee falls from an elevated position such as a ladder or scaffolding the injury will generally be compensable under Iowa Workers’ Compensation law.

 

  1. Where an employee falls while on stairs the injury will also generally be compensable under Iowa Workers’ Compensation law.

 

  1. Where the fall is because of an increased risk related to the job such as a slippery work surface the resulting injury will also generally be compensable as a work comp injury.

 

  1. Where an employee falls on a level surface because of a personal condition of the worker, then the worker will have the burden of proof to show that a condition of the employment increased the risk of injury. The most common situation where this fourth rule will apply is where a worker falls because of a personal health problem, but ends up being severely injured because the fall was on a hard surface such as a concrete floor.

Some members of the legislature were unhappy with the Bluml case and proposed a statute that would overrule the Bluml decision.  There is an old saying that the two things you never want to see made are sausage and laws.  I did work in a meat processing plant one summer.  I did not personally think sausage production was disturbing, but I can see where some people would not want to watch.  Laura Belin wrote a good article about the debates behind the new law which can be found here.

On April 23, 2019 Governor Kim Reynolds approved the anti-Bluml law which will become Iowa Code Section 85.61(7)(c) and which will provide:

“Personal injuries due to idiopathic or unexplained falls from a level surface onto the same level surface do not arise out of and in the course of employment and are not compensable under this chapter.”

The purpose of the new law appears to be to eliminate a worker’s ability to bring a workers’ compensation case where the worker falls because of a personal health problem, but ends up being severely injured because the fall was onto a hard surface such as a concrete floor.

This new law concerning falls will probably apply to injuries that occur after July 1, 2019.  However, the effective date of the statute is not yet clear.

I expect there might be some litigation over the meaning of the new Iowa Code Section 85.61(7)(c).  I think that the word “idiopathic” in the definition is intended to refer to a personal health problem.  However, idiopathic actually means that there is no identifiable cause for a health problem.