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Workers' Compensation

MVP Correctly Explains the Meaning of “Unexplained” In New Iowa Workers’ Compensation Law

MVP Law Attorney, Lara Plaisance, correctly interpreted a new Iowa workers’ compensation statute dealing with “unexplained” falls leading to a favorable outcome for her clients. Plaisance argued that under the new statute the claimant failed to prove an explanation for her fall and as a result, was not entitled to benefits. The Deputy Commissioner agreed, and on appeal to the Commissioner, affirmed stating that Plaisance had successfully established that claimant’s fall was unexplained and therefore did not arise out of and in the course of her employment.

In Murphy v. Ottumwa Regional Health Center, the claimant inexplicably fell while walking in the hallway of her workplace. Multiple doctors attempted to figure out the cause of her fall by performing tests, examining the claimant, and asking questions to which the claimant responded that she did not remember any of the events leading up to or after the fall. Approximately eight months after her fall, the claimant asserted that she fell due to a paperclip she found lodged in her shoe. She stated that her shoes were placed in a Menards bag after her fall and when she later retrieved her shoes, she saw a small silver paperclip protruding from the toebox of her New Balance sneakers. The paperclip was alleged to have caused the claimant to slip and fall in her workplace, making her fall explained and therefore, compensable. The Deputy Commissioner disagreed with the claimant and found her fall to still be considered “unexplained.”

Claimant then appealed to the Commissioner and argued that the paperclip theory shifted the burden of proof to the Defendants to show the fall was unexplained. Plaisance defended her clients by pointing to the plain language and construction of the statute to show that the burden of proof remained with the claimant. She further countered that even if the Defendants had the burden of proof, it was satisfied by the overwhelming medical records and testimony showing a lack of an explanation. The Commissioner agreed with Plaisance on both arguments and ruled in favor of the Defendants.

To read the Deputy’s Decision, click here. To read the Commissioner’s Decision, click here.

If you have additional questions about unexplained falls in Iowa, please contact Lara Plaisance.

MVP Law is a regional defense firm with attorneys practicing in civil litigation & insurance defense, employment law, and workers’ compensation defense. Our team of attorneys practice in 6 Midwest states; Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, & Nebraska. At MVP Law, our core values of respect for everyone and real relationships have enabled our team to gather a deeper understanding our clients’ businesses and needs, leading us to provide the best possible legal representation.

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