by | Mar 29, 2024

On March 29, 2024, Iowa’s Supreme Court handed down an opinion in Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. The seminal issue in the case had to do with how to compensate an employee who sustained both an arm and shoulder injury.

Under the July 1, 2017 changes to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act, a shoulder is now a scheduled member injury compensated against 400 weeks. An arm injury is a scheduled member injury in Iowa compensated against 250 weeks.

When an employee has had both a shoulder injury and an arm injury arising from the same accident, the Division had previously determined that such injuries fall under the catch-all provision for body as a whole injuries. This meant that an employee who sustains both a shoulder and an arm injury, in the same accident, could collect industrial disability benefits against 500 weeks.

Iowa’s Supreme Court overturned that prior case law in Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. Iowa’s Supreme Court found that the catch-all provision is only applicable to injuries that are not otherwise outlined in the schedule. Iowa’s Supreme Court explained that no one would think that an employee who sustained injuries to two fingers in the same accident could be compensated under the catch-all provision. Iowa’s Supreme Court did not think that special rules should apply to shoulder and arm injuries arising out of the same accident.

Iowa’s Supreme Court was clear that there are still several categories of injuries that fall under the catch-all provision; such as back injuries, brain injuries, rib injuries, and so on. Additionally, when an employee has one of these unscheduled injuries plus a scheduled injury, from the same accident, both injuries are still compensated for, together, under the same body as a whole analysis.

However, the ruling in Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. has significant implications for how three or more scheduled injuries are compensated. Previously, the Division found three or more scheduled injuries from the same accident fall under the catch-all provision. However, the holding in Anderson v Bridgestone Americas, Inc. casts significant doubt on that prior interpretation. If two scheduled member injuries do not fall under the catch-all provision based on the plain meaning of the statute, it is doubtful three, or even four, scheduled member injuries, arising from the same accident, fall under the catchall provision.

Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. stands to have significant implications for how injured workers are compensated for their injuries in Iowa. If you have questions about how the holding in Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. applies to the specific fact of your case, please feel free to reach out to Micah Hawker-Boehnke or Paul Barta at (402) 475-1075.