October 2, 2020

On September 29, 2020, the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner issued an Appeal Decision in the Deng v. Farmland Foods matter, reversing the Arbitration Decision that the claimant’s infraspinatus injury extended into the body as a whole rather than being limited to a scheduled member shoulder injury. This Appeal Decision is notable because it is the first Appeal Decision on a post-July 1, 2017 shoulder claim, following the Iowa Legislature’s changes to section 85.34 of adding the shoulder to the list of scheduled members.

In his Appeal Decision, the Commissioner set forth significant analysis regarding what constitutes the “shoulder.” He noted that the statute is ambiguous, and the legislature’s debates on the house and senate files fail to provide clarity regarding what anatomical structures were intended to make up the “shoulder.” The Commissioner ultimately found that the shoulder is not limited to only the shoulder joint, but includes the muscles that make up the rotator cuff for the purposes of benefits under Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(n). While this Appeal Decision likely is not the final word on workers’ compensation shoulder injuries in Iowa, it is favorable to defendants, as it rejects the practice of awarding body as a whole benefits for rotator cuff injuries based on using the proximal point of the joint to classify the injury.

If you have any questions regarding the impact of this Appeal Decision or shoulder claims under Iowa workers’ compensation laws, please contact our office today.