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Roberts Dairy v. Billick: Workers’ Compensation Disability Rating

In Roberts Dairy v. Billick, a case from the Supreme Court of Iowa, claimant who injured his back while working at a feed company owned by employer. This injury occurred in 1985, and claimant eventually entered into a workers’ compensation settlement with employer at an 85 percent disability rating.

tanker-truck-reflection-395160-m.jpgIn 1993, claimant was injured while working for a trucking company. He was driving a tanker truck in bad weather when he lost control and crashed. Claimant injured his neck, back, legs, arms, head, and shoulder. Claimant again filed for workers’ compensation disability and entered into another settlement with his new employer’s insurance company. This time, the parties agreed on an 18.5 percent partial disability rating for the whole body. As our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, in disability cases it is often necessary to assign a disability rating as either partial or permanent to determine what is the appropriate amount of benefits.

In 2001, claimant began working for another dairy company driving a semi-tractor trailer. This employer required claimant to drive milk products to various businesses around the region. In 2004, claimant was loading his truck with a pallet of milk crates filled with bottles when he lost control of it, and it pinned him between the pallet and truck’s loading gate, crushing his ankle. For reasons not explained, most other drivers’ trucks were loaded by others, but claimant was instructed to load is own truck. He suffered four identifiable injuries as a result of this incident and sought medical treatment.

He received extensive treatment, including arthroscopic surgery, but was left with a permanent impairment and suffered from residual pain in his left leg. A month after this accident, he was bringing dairy products into a big box retailer, and a shelf broke and caused injury to his shoulder, head, and neck.

As if this was not bad enough, he was injured when a metal strap came loose from his truck two years later and hurt his elbow and arm. After this injury, he was driving back from Pennsylvania and stopped to make a delivery. Somehow, a pallet of milk products fell on him, causing injury to his chest. During his ride home, he was nearly involved in a traffic accident, which caused substantial emotional trauma.

Claimant filed for workers’ compensation in connection with all four injuries, and a hearing was held before the workers’ compensation commission. At the hearing, the judge found claimant disabled and assigned various disability ratings to the various injuries. Employer argued his benefits award should be apportioned among his former employers, because those prior injuries had been a major contributing factor in his most recent injuries.

Both parties appealed judge’s ruling on numerous grounds, but the only issue district court chose to address was whether the workers’ compensation commission had properly interpreted recent changes to the state statute relating to apportionment of workers’ compensation benefits for prior compensated injuries. The district court held judge had misinterpreted the new law and reversed and remanded the case.

Ultimately, claimant appealed to the state supreme court, and that court determined the judge was correct in deciding not to apportion his benefits awards based upon prior compensation.

If you are injured on the job in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim: 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Roberts Dairy v. Billick, Apr. 3, 2015, Iowa Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:

Frith v. WSI – Proving Worsening Condition Is Related to Work Injury, May 27, 2014, Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog