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Undocumented worker entitled to permanent disability

Nevada Supreme Court

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled an undocumented worker who continues to suffer from pain and mental trauma due to a workplace accident is entitled to permanent total disability, despite an insurance administrator’s insistence that he cannot work due to his immigration status, not his disability.

The state Supreme Court on Monday unanimously affirmed a district court’s ruling in Associated Risk Management Inc. v. Ibanez that the carpenter was entitled to PTD status under the state’s “odd-lot doctrine.”

Manuel Ibanez worked as a carpenter for High Point Construction Inc. In 2014, a falling two-by-four struck him in the head, shoulder and back. He was treated with surgeries over the next several years and suffered both physical pain and mental trauma, according to court documents.

Mr. Ibanez applied for PTD status, and his employer’s insurance administrator, Associated Risk Management, denied the request, finding that his disability was only temporary and that he would be employable if he was eligible to work legally in the U.S. A Nevada Division of Industrial Relations hearing officer affirmed the denial, but an appeals officer reversed the decision. A district court declined to review the decision and Associated Risk appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Associated Risk argued that Mr. Ibanez was eligible for light-duty work, but the Supreme Court agreed with the appeals officer’s finding of his disability based on the state’s odd-lot doctrine. The doctrine states that workers may qualify for permanent disability if they are not completely incapacitated but “so handicapped that they will not be employed regularly in any well-known branch of the labor market.”

The Supreme Court also rejected Associated Risk’s argument that Mr. Ibanez was unable to work solely because of his legal status. The court said medical reports regarding his injuries supported his disability assertions and that his immigration status was “irrelevant.”