State News : Iowa

NWCDN is a network of law firms dedicated to protecting employers in workers’ compensation claims.

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.

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Taylor Industries, Inc., a/k/a Hussmann Corp, and Indemnity Insurance Co. of North America v. Brent Lepley, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 15-0243

Claimant, Brent Lepley, sustained an injury on July 31, 2012, while working for the employer. The initial treatment was to Lepley’s left shoulder; however, several weeks later, Lepley began complaining of pain in his right shoulder as well. The employer denied liability for the right shoulder injury, and the matter proceeded to a workers’ compensation hearing. The deputy commissioner determined Lepley’s right shoulder condition was not work related. On intraagency appeal, another deputy commissioner, hearing the appeal by designation of the commissioner, reversed this decision, concluding Lepley carried his burden to prove his right shoulder injury was causally related to the work injury. Because Lepley was not at maximum medical improvement for either shoulder injury, the employer was ordered to pay for past and future treatment for both shoulders.

The employer filed a petition for judicial review with the district court, challenging the evidence supporting the finding of causation for the right shoulder injury. The district court upheld the agency’s decision under a substantial evidence review pursuant to Iowa Code section 17A.19(10)(f) (2011). The employer appealed.

The Court of Appeals affirms the district court’s judicial review decision finding that substantial evidence supports the agency’s finding of causation with respect to the right shoulder injury. The Court noted that the district court correctly analyzed both the applicable law on judicial review and the facts of this case.

Helen L. Lampman v. Chrystal Inc. and First Comp Insurance Co., Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 14-1983

Claimant, Helen Lampman, began working for Regency Care Center in July 2008 as a certified medication aide and certified nursing assistant. On May 9, 2009, Claimant was lifting a resident into bed when the resident pulled Claimant down by her ponytail. Claimant went to the hospital the next day with complaints of pain in her lower back and going down her legs. Regency fired Claimant on May 11, 2009.

Claimant received extensive medical treatment following her injury from a number of doctors. On May 14, 2009, Dr. Prevo diagnosed Claimant with low back pain. Dr. Miller believed Claimant reached MMI on August 14, and opined that Claimant had “a permanent partial impairment of 1% to 2% of the lumbar back.” Dr. Jones performed an independent medical examination (IME) on October 16, 2009, which rated Claimant’s permanent impairment at five percent, and stated “this problem will continue into the indefinite future.”

In January 2010, Dr. McGuire, an orthopedic surgeon, examined the Claimant’s MRI, and noted the beginning of degenerative spondylolisthesis. Dr. McGuire prescribed Claimant a cane and a walker and agreed she had sustained a five percent permanent impairment. Dr. McGuire stated further that Claimant’s lifting incident on May 9, 2009, was a substantial and primary cause of her back pain. Dr. McGuire also noted he had “access to absolutely none of her treatment records.”

Dr. Ransdell treated Claimant for pain from July to December of 2010. Dr. Ransdell stated in his deposition that he did not believe a single traumatic event in 2009 could cause Claimant the level of continuing pain she complained of, but indicated lifting events could exacerbate an underlying condition. Dr. Ransdell did not have access to Claimant’s medical records other than those received from Dr. McGuire. Dr. Boarini examined Claimant on June 16, 2010 for an IME, and stated she “exhibits some obvious exaggerated pain behavior.” On November 9, 2011, Claimant underwent a functional capacity evaluation by Dr. Mark Blankespoor who found that she should be placed in the sedentary category of physical demand characteristics.

Claimant filed a petition alleging a cumulative injury to her back and legs with an injury date of May 9, 2009. On May 3, 2012, a deputy commissioner held an arbitration hearing. The deputy commissioner awarded Claimant permanent partial disability benefits based on a five percent industrial disability. Claimant filed an appeal to the commissioner who adopted as the final agency decision the portions of the arbitration decision challenged on appeal. The commissioner found Claimant’s testimony was not credible in regard to her level of pain.

Claimant sought judicial review on July 2, 2013. Claimant argued she sustained a permanent total disability, or at least seventy percent industrial disability due to the May 9, 2009 injury. The district court decided substantial evidence supported the agency’s award of five percent industrial disability. Claimant appealed.

Claimant first contends the agency’s decision to award five percent industrial disability is factually flawed and not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals notes that it is not in a position to second-guess the commissioner’s credibility findings or to reweigh the expert evidence received by the agency. The commissioner decided any permanent restrictions on Claimant’s work activity were not due to her May 2009 back injury. In reaching that decision, the commissioner rejected the opinions of those doctors who believed the work injury resulted in permanent restrictions because Claimant provided them with an “incorrect history” of her back pain. Because the record contains substantial evidence to support the commissioner’s factual findings, the Court will not disturb the determination of five percent industrial disability.

Claimant next argues the agency decision is the product of reasoning so illogical as to require reversal under section 17A.19(10)(i). The Court of Appeals, like the district court, concludes the commissioner’s determination was not illogical or irrational. The commissioner explained why he determined Claimant’s industrial disability was only five percent. Specifically, the commissioner reasoned Claimant was not credible regarding her back pain related to the work injury and to the extent that she provided inaccurate information to her doctors, the commissioner discounted their opinions that she suffered permanent restrictions caused by the back injury at Regency.

Claimant also claims the commissioner’s finding of only five percent industrial disability was an abuse of discretion requiring reversal under section 17A.19(10)(n). The Court of Appeals reaches the same decision as the district court: the commissioner exercised the agency’s considerable discretion within tenable grounds and to a reasonable extent.

The Court of Appeals thus affirms the decision of the district court.

Call Mark Bosscher or Lee Hook with any questions @ 515-243-2100.  We’d be happy to help, whether it be a quick or a complex issue!