Appellate Court Affirms Commissioner’s Finding of Causation and Industrial Disability

Posted on: April 11th, 2016

Employer Pella Corporation appealed a district court order affirming the commissioner’s decision that a forklift accident caused a rotator cuff tear in its employee’s right shoulder, and that the employee, Charlie Marshall, was entitled to an award of twenty percent industrial disability. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s holding.

Marshall was struck by a forklift while working for Pella. The impact threw Marshall about seven feet and he landed on his right side. Immediately after the accident, medical personnel diagnosed Marshal with a laceration to his face, and contusions to his right chest and right hand. The company doctor and occupational physician noted normal range of motion in both shoulders. One week after the accident, Marshall was released to full normal duty. Two days later, Marshall complained of shoulder in his right shoulder. During the following six months, Marshall complained of pain in his right arm and shoulder. The company physician recommended conservative treatment. Approximately seven months after the accident, Pella sent Marshall to an orthopedic surgeon. An MRI revealed a full thickness rotator cuff tear. Marshall’s family physician opined the rotator cuff was related to the forklift accident. Pella’s company doctor denied the rotator cuff was related to the forklift accident because Marshall did not complain of right shoulder pain following the accident. During the hearing, Marshall and his wife testified that he experienced continual pain in his right shoulder following the accident. Pella presented testimony evidence that the rotator cuff tear was not related to the accident. The deputy found Marshall failed to establish causation. On appeal, the commissioner reversed the deputy’s decision, finding sufficient evidence to establish causation. The commissioner gave the greatest weight to the medical opinions predicated on Marshall’s ongoing shoulder pain, the absence of a prior right shoulder condition, and the severity of Marshall’s traumatic injury. The commissioner awarded 20 percent industrial disability. The district court and court of appeals agreed with the commissioner’s finding of causation and award of industrial disability.

Pella Corp. v. Charlie Marshall, No. 14-2121 (Iowa Ct. App. April 6, 2016).

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