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July 17, 2009

Iowa Supreme Court Finds Permanent Total Disability Award Cannot Be Apportioned

In the 1990s and up to 2004, the Iowa Supreme Court had held that an employer might be responsible for the impact of a previous work injury, even if it had happened at another employer. That string of decisions had upset employers, and in 2004, the Iowa General Assembly changed the workers’ compensation statute, adding Section 85.34(7) of the Iowa Code, in an attempt to relieve employers of responsibility for such previous injuries at other employers.

In Drake University v. Davis, filed July 17, 2009, the Court reviewed a decision that found permanent partial disability based on earlier work injuries, and then found permanent total disability based on a work injury at Drake University. The Iowa District Court found that Drake should not be responsible for the earlier injuries, citing Section 85.34(7) of the Iowa Code. However, the Iowa Supreme Court noted that the 2004 changes only referred to permanent partial disability awards. In this case, the Commissioner and the Court found that Davis was permanently totally disabled due to the injury at Drake University . Since the change in the law only applied to permanent partial disability awards, the Court found that Section 85.34(7) of the Iowa Code did not apply, noting, “Permanent total disability benefits are not subject to apportionment under section 85.34(7).”

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