Iowa Supreme Court Addresses Compensability of Idiopathic Falls

  • Nov 28, 2018

Legal Update by Attorney Alison Stewart

On November 16, 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a ruling addressing the compensability of idiopathic falls. Previously the Court said, “The workers’ compensation statute is not a general health insurance policy that extends to all injuries that happen to occur while on the job.” In Bluml v. Dee Jay’s Inc., d/b/a Long John Silvers and Commerce & Indus. Ins. Co., the Court held that there is no blanket rule rendering certain categories of workplace idiopathic falls non-compensable, so long as the employee proves that a condition of the employment increased the risk of injury.

The specifics of Bluml involve an employee who experienced a seizure while working, which caused him to fall straight backward onto the ceramic floor and strike the back of his head. He had been experiencing seizures for many years, but had been non-compliant with anti-seizure medication and there was a record of alcohol abuse. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner deputy who heard the case denied benefits reasoning that idiopathic falls to level surfaces are not compensable under Iowa law. On appeal to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, the Commissioner affirmed, but noted it was undisputed the employee’s injuries were worsened because he fell on a ceramic tile floor.

Ultimately the Supreme Court held that these types of cases should be factually analyzed on a case-by-case basis. With this decision on the books, there is no hard and fast rule in Iowa whether idiopathic falls onto level floors are compensable. An employee may recover when they prove a condition of their employment increased the risk of injury. To read the full decision, click here.



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