NWCDN Members regularly post articles and summary judgements in workers’ compensations law in your state.
Select a state from the dropdown menu below to scroll through the state specific archives for updates and opinions on various workers’ compensation laws in your state.
Contact information for NWCDN members is also located on the state specific links in the event you have additional questions or your company is seeking a workers’ compensation lawyer in your state.
Carolyn Marcine Jenson, v. Cummins Filtration-Lake Mills A/K/A Cummins, Inc., F/K/A Fleetguard, Inc., Court of Appeals of Iowa,No. 13-1733
The Claimant, Carolyn Jenson, appeals a district court decision affirming the commissioner’s denial of her knee injury claim. The deputy concluded the Claimant failed to meet her burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the injury arose out of and in the course of her employment. Instead, the deputy concluded the cause of the Claimant’s knee pain was due “to degenerative disease exacerbated by poorly controlled diabetes” and the Claimant’s weight.
The commissioner affirmed the deputy’s decision noting that it was based largely on the deputy’s assessment that the Claimant’s testimony was not credible or convincing. The Claimant was unable to identify how or when her knee pain began, and the knee injury was inconsistent with the motion described by the Claimant during job tasks. The Court of Appeals concluded the commissioner did not abuse his discretion, the decision is not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable, and is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Thus, the Court agrees with the district court’s affirmance.
The Claimant also maintains the district court erred by misconstruing the commissioner’s award when it converted the award into a judgment. Specifically, the Claimant maintains the district court misapplied the fifty-percent penalty awarded by the commissioner when the court applied the penalty to only the unpaid portion of the award rather than the total award.
The Court of Appeals found the district court did not err in determining that Cummins Filtration should only pay a penalty for payments it was required to make less credits for the disability payments paid. The Court emphasized that Iowa Code section 86.13(4)(a) provides that “the workers’ compensation commission shall award benefits in addition to those benefits payable under this chapter…up to fifty percent of the amount of benefits that were denied, delayed or terminated.”
Hydecker Wheatland Company and Zurich North America v. Kelly Bruce, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 14-0492
On October 15, 2010, the Claimant, Kelly Bruce, was working for Hydecker Wheatland Company installing new electrical lines. He was standing in the bucket of a boom truck that touched a live electrical wire. The voltage entered his body through his right hand and surged out through the left hand, causing second- and third-degree burns to both hands, along with significant nerve damage. He lost his left ring finger and left pinky, as well as his right ring finger, as a result of the accident.
The deputy commissioner found the Claimant was unable to return to the competitive work force. The deputy decided the Claimant was permanently and totally disabled. The commissioner affirmed and adopted the deputy’s decision. Hydecker sought judicial review. Following a hearing, the district court affirmed the commissioner’s award of total permanent disability benefits. Hydecker now appeals.
Hydecker argues that despite the “dramatic mechanism” of the Claimant’s work injury, he sustained “only moderate industrial disability” and has not reentered the work force due to his unwillingness, not inability, to secure employment. In response, the Claimant asserts phantom pain is a type of neuropathic pain and his reports of such pain were substantiated in the agency record. He also argues his mental injuries—including flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety—were supported by substantial evidence, including his own testimony, which the commissioner found credible.
The Court of Appeals found that the commissioner’s fact finding was supported by substantial evidence and the determination that the Claimant suffered Permanent Total Disability was not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable. The commissioner was entitled to consider the toll of the electrical burns on the Claimant’s physical abilities, as well as the impact on his psychological functioning when deciding the extent of his industrial disability. The court noted that the Claimant was unable to return to his prior occupation. Additionally, the Claimant’s age, lack of education and poor academic skills, and limited work experience support the commissioner’s decision. The Claimant established that he could not compete for jobs in his field, nor could he realistically retrain for other positions given his cognitive limitations and physical restrictions.
JBS Swift & Company and Zurich American Insurance Company v. Wayne Hedberg, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 14-0565
The employer appeals the district court’s decision affirming the agency’s award of permanent total disability benefits. The Claimant, Wayne Hedberg, sustained an injury to his right shoulder and arm on May 7, 2010. After his injury he continued working in light-duty positions within his temporary work restrictions until his surgery on December 31, 2010. On January 3, 2011, after the death of his wife, he moved to Minnesota to live with his brother, because he could not care for himself. He suffered for most of his life from cerebral lupus, mild cerebral palsy, and hearing impairment, for which he required the assistance of others. As of March 28, 2011, the employer notified the Claimant there was work available to him within his temporary work restrictions. Later, he was notified there was work available for him within his permanent work restrictions. The Claimant did not return to work after his surgery and did not seek other employment. On August 8, 2011, he was notified that he was deemed a voluntary quit for failing to report back to work.
An arbitration decision found the Claimant had an 80% industrial disability but was not permanently and totally disabled. The intra-agency appeal adopted the arbitration decision, with a modification as to the extent of the Claimant’s permanent disability, finding the Claimant was entitled to permanent total disability benefits. In support of the award of permanent total disability benefits, the commissioner’s designee stated the employer failed to provide any descriptions of the work available to the Claimant.
On appeal, the employer contends this case does not present a routine question of substantial evidence review. Instead, the employer argues that the agency failed to consider a relevant and important matter, took action that was unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion; and reached a decision that was a product of illogical reasoning. Specifically, the employer asserts the agency failed to consider and/or explicitly misstated record evidence; failed to consider the Claimant’s refusal of full-time work within his permanent work restrictions; and failed to consider the Claimant voluntarily left his employment for reasons unrelated to his work injury.
The Court of Appeals found that the record reflects the commissioner’s designee simply ignored or overlooked record evidence regarding the work available to the Claimant. The Commissioner stated that no descriptions of available work were given, but this statement is demonstrably incorrect as there were descriptions given in an expert’s report of jobs that were viable and within the Claimant’s medical restrictions. The overlooked evidence was not immaterial; the heart of the appeal decision was based upon the designee’s conclusion that the employer failed to provide evidence of available work, and that only make-work was available. The Court of Appeals thus concluded the commissioner’s designee’s action was unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and the product of illogical reasoning. The decision was accordingly reversed and remanded to allow the agency to make a decision based on the existing record.
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