The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled falls at work caused by medical conditions can’t automatically be ruled out for workers compensation claims.
The case involves 38-year-old Jason Bluml, who had a seizure while working as the shift manager of the Long John Silver’s in Council Bluffs in 2012. The fall onto the ceramic tile floor caused serious injuries. Bluml went to work in the fast-food business again, but as a cook and not a manager, as he had trouble with reading, memory, and judgment. He continues to suffer from seizures and to struggle with alcohol abuse.
Court records showed Bluml had not been taking anti-seizure medications and had issues with alcohol abuse. The Workforce Compensation Comissioner ruled the fall was idiopathic, or caused by a medical condition, and Bluml was not due compenstation.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruling says it has been two decades since the issue has been addressed. It reversed the commissioner, saying there is no blanket rule for such workplace falls, so long as the employees proves that a condition their employment increased the risk of injury.
Justice Thomas Waterman disagreed with the majority opinion. He says it is undisputed that Bluml’s seizure was unrelated to his working conditions and was fortuitous that he has a seizure at work rather than outside on a hard sidewalk. Waterman says when the case goes back to the commissioner there may still be a finding the floor did not contribute to the injuries — but says it could result in a costly payout that would eviscerate that section of the law and make the employer a general health insurer.
Here’s the full ruling: Workplace-fall-ruling-PDF