In Bluml v. Dee Jays, Inc., No. 18-0317 (Iowa Nov. 16, 2018), the Supreme Court reversed and remanded a case where the commissioner had held, as a matter of law, that an idiopathic injury involving a fall to a level floor, could not be considered a compensable injury. Claimant had a seizure and fell on a ceramic floor while working for Long John Silver's. In the decision, the commissioner had indicated that there was no dispute that the hard floor had worsened the effects of the injury. Nonetheless, the commissioner adopted what he found was the majority rule that regardless of the surface, an idiopathic fall was not compensable.
The Court eschewed discussion of court of appeals decisions on the topic and instead focused on the earlier Supreme Court decision in Koehler Electric v. Wills, 608 N.W.2d 1 (Iowa 2003). In that case, a claimant who fell from a ladder as a result of alcohol withdrawal was found to have sustained a compensable injury, relying on the increased risk test. The Court notes that Larson indicates that in idiopathic fall cases, the increased risk rule was the appropriate rule to follow rather than the actual risk rule. The Court then acknowledged that the commissioner and District Court had ruled as a matter of law that the fall was not compensable and held that this should have been a factual determination of whether the conditions of employment increased the risk.
The Court canvassed cases from other jurisdictions, some of which had indicated that the hardness of the landing surface was essential to a finding that an idiopathic injury was compensable. The Court ultimately noted that this was a factual matter rather than a matter of law and that the commissioner, on remand, was to determine whether a condition of employment increased the risk of injury. If, as a factual matter, this was the case, then the injury would be compensable. If not, the injury would not be compensated.
Justice Waterman dissented,finding that hard surface floors were ubiquitous and not a hazard of employment. The dissent asserts that the ruling eviscerates the arising out of employment requirement of the law.