by | Jun 14, 2021

The Court of Appeals of Iowa recently affirmed a decision from the Commission about an employee who argued she was entitled to permanent total disability from a work related injury. In Drahozal v. American Airlines, the employee argued that she fell under the Odd-Lot Doctrine, but the court found this not to be true, because she lacked evidence that she demonstrated a reasonable effort to find employment.

The Odd-Lot Doctrine is a kind of permanent total disability. An employee is an odd-lot when an injury prevents the employee from obtaining employment in any well-known branch of the labor market.

To determine whether an injured employee is an odd-lot, a combination of factors including the worker’s reasonable but unsuccessful effort to find steady employment, the extent of the worker’s physical impairment, age, intelligence, education, experience, etc. must be reviewed. The employee must make a prima facie showing of coming within the odd-lot category.

During her employment with American Airlines, it was part of the employee’s job to de-ice airplanes. She was wearing gloves, but the de-icing solution soaked through her gloves and caused damage to her fingers by frostbite and necrosis.

She filed a petition in arbitration with the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner against American Airlines. The deputy found the employee was “capable of retraining” and thus she had failed to establish a permanent total disability under statute or under the Odd-Lot Doctrine.

She appealed to the commissioner which affirmed the deputy’s findings in its entirety. She then filed a petition for judicial review in the district court. The district court held a hearing in the matter and affirmed the deputy’s findings as well. The Court of Appeals finally heard the case and also denied the employee’s argument that she was entitled to permanent total disability.

At the Court of Appeals, the employee argued that she showed “substantial evidence” of her inability to re-enter the workforce by her:

(1) bilateral hand impairments;

(2) advanced age; and

(3) limited education.

The Court concluded that without evidence to “demonstrate a reasonable effort to secure employment,” an employee cannot prove she is unemployable in any capacity in her labor market. In this case, the employee failed to produce substantial evidence that she was not employable, and without evidence to show that a reasonable effort to secure employment was made, the employee could not meet the burden for the “Odd-Lot Doctrine.”

This post was drafted by Emily Fehringer, a law student and law clerk at Baylor Evnen. If you have questions about the Odd-Lot Doctrine, please call Paul Barta or Micah C. Hawker-Boehnke at 402-475-1075.