Victory at the Iowa Supreme Court: A Huge Win For Our Client

May 23, 2024 May 23 2024

Rush & Nicholson is thrilled share the news of a significant victory achieved by our team at the Iowa Supreme Court. This decision marks a pivotal moment for our client, Dee Delaney, who has been fighting for justice after suffering permanent injuries that impacted her ability to earn a living.

Case Background

Our client, Dee Delaney, experienced a severe injury to her lower right leg while employed at Nordstrom in March 2019. This injury aggravated her pre-existing osteoarthritis, necessitating a total right knee replacement surgery in August 2019. Despite the surgery, she continued to suffer from postsurgical complications, including persistent pain and swelling in her right foot and calf, which were later diagnosed as lymphedema.

In addition to the right leg injury, Ms. Delaney had previously experienced an injury to her left leg in 1986, which caused permanent impairment. This combination of injuries led her to seek benefits from the Second Injury Fund of Iowa, as she had now sustained permanent disabilities to both legs.

The Legal Challenge

The workers’ compensation commissioner initially denied Ms. Delaney’s claim for benefits from the fund. The commissioner concluded that her lymphedema, resulting from the knee surgery, constituted an injury to the vascular system, which they categorized as a whole-body injury rather than an injury to a scheduled member like a leg.

Attorney Nate Willems of Rush & Nicholson, P.L.C. argued on behalf of Ms. Delaney, stating, “Our client has had her ability to earn a living diminished by permanent injuries to both legs. She deserves to recover an award based on lost earnings capacity from the combination of those injuries. It would have been an absurd result to take away her claim simply because she developed mild swelling below her knee after going through total knee replacement surgery stemming from her work injury.”

The IA Supreme Court’s Decision

The Iowa Supreme Court granted further review and provided a decisive ruling. The Court concluded that the workers’ compensation commissioner’s interpretation was incorrect. The Supreme Court clarified that the injury resulting in lymphedema should not automatically be classified as a whole-body injury. Instead, it should be considered in the context of how it affects the scheduled member—in this case, the leg.

The Court’s decision emphasized the importance of assessing the cumulative effect of the injuries on the scheduled members, which in Ms. Delaney’s case, are her legs. This interpretation aligns with the intent of Iowa Code section 85.64(1), which aims to provide fair compensation to workers who have sustained multiple injuries impacting their ability to work.

Impact and Significance

This ruling is a monumental step where an injured worker may recover their lost earnings from two injuries, even if the recent injury extends beyond an arm or leg. It acknowledges the reality of cumulative injuries and their impact on a person’s ability to earn a living. For Ms. Delaney, this victory means she can now receive the compensation she deserves for her diminished earning capacity.

We are proud to have played a role in this landmark decision and remain committed to advocating for the rights of injured workers. This case sets a precedent that will benefit countless others who find themselves in similar situations, ensuring they receive fair treatment and the support they need to rebuild their lives.

Moving Forward

Our team continues to stand by Ms. Delaney and all our clients, providing dedicated and compassionate legal representation. If you or someone you know is facing a similar battle, we are here to help. Together, we can fight for justice and secure the compensation you deserve.

For more information or to discuss your case, please contact us at Rush & Nicholson. We are here to support you every step of the way.

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