Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Preserves 2017 Legislative Changes

October 1, 2020

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Joseph Cortese II reversed the initial findings of a deputy workers’ compensation commissioner in two workers’ compensation cases that sought to limit the scope of legislation championed by ABI in 2017. ABI, through member firm Heidman Law in Sioux City, filed amicus briefs in the proceedings before the Commissioner and sought the reversal.

At stake was the definition of a shoulder. The 2017 legislation, which ABI spearheaded, had specified that a shoulder injury was a scheduled injury like an arm or a leg and would be compensated as such. Before this change, shoulder injuries were considered body of the whole injuries and compensated at a higher rate. Plaintiffs in the two cases had argued that a shoulder was only the shoulder joint and nothing that attaches to it. If such an interpretation held, most shoulder injuries would once again be considered body of the whole injuries.  

Commissioner Cortese weighed the legislative intent of the 2017 law in rendering his decision. For his legal reasoning, see his decision in Deng vs. Farmland Foods Inc. This is likely not the last of this issue. The plaintiffs have the right to appeal the Commissioner’s decision in district court. ABI will report future events related to the case.