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Court rules fall during seizure could be compensable for fast-food worker

Posted On: Nov. 19, 2018 12:37 PM CST

Court rules fall during seizure could be compensable for fast-food worker

The Supreme Court of Iowa ruled Friday that a brain injury suffered by a supervisor who had a seizure and fell backward on a ceramic tile floor while working as the cashier at a Long John Silver’s restaurant could be compensable, and ordered that the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission reconsider.

Jason Bluml, a 38-year-old at the time, was working as a shift manager at the franchise location in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Feb. 15, 2012. He had been having seizures since 2007 and was prescribed anti-seizure medication, which he had not been taking at the time before he suffered a seizure while helping a customer, falling and hitting his head on the ceramic floor, according to documents in Jason Bluml v. Dee Jay’s Inc. d/b/a Long John Silvers and Commerce & Industry Insurance Co., filed in state Supreme Court in Des Moines, Iowa.

He was taken to the emergency room and was found to have suffered a brain hemorrhage, which eventually caused permanent impairment, according to court documents.

Two years into treatment, he filed a petition for arbitration with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission, which found that Mr. Bluml failed to “carry his burden of proof that he had sustained an injury that arose out of and in the course of employment. The (commission) deputy noted that Bluml had suffered an idiopathic fall, i.e., a fall due to a personal condition, and concluded, ‘[T]he law appears clear that idiopathic falls to level surfaces are not compensable under Iowa law,’” documents states.

The matter was then taken before the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, which affirmed the earlier ruling.

With one judge dissenting and one taking no part in Friday’s ruling, the seven-panel court overturned the earlier rulings that the injury was not compensable, finding that the hard floor contributed to the severity of Mr. Bluml’s injury.

Per Friday’s ruling, “the employee is arguing that his fall to the floor should have been compensable under the increased-risk test. We see no logical reason why that test could not, in an appropriate case, be met.”

Judge Thomas Waterman dissented, writing that Mr. Bluml’s “injuries from his idiopathic fall onto a level floor are not compensable as a matter of law under Iowa Code… The ceramic tile floor was not slippery. Hard-surface floors are ubiquitous and not a hazard of employment. … Before today, we have never held an idiopathic fall from a standing or walking position onto a level floor of any surface was compensable.”

Officials with Dee Jay’s could not immediately be reached for comment.