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.
Mike Brooks, Inc. and Great West Casualty Co. v. James David House, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 3-624/13-0303
The Claimant began his employment with Mike Brooks, Inc. on July 26, 2005 as a commercial truck driver. On March 7, 2007 he suffered a back injury after slipping on ice in the truck loading area. Dr. was seen by orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Hatfield, who prescribed physical therapy. After 2 ½ months, the Claimant passed a DOT physical and was returned to work. After continued back pain, he underwent surgery with Dr. Hatfield on January 31, 2008. He returned to work 6-8 weeks later, but continued to feel pain. Dr. Hatfield recommended that he cease working, and on November 13, 2008, performed an anterior fusion and then a posterior fusion the next day.
The Claimant filed a petition with the Agency on December 16, 2009 alleging the back injury of March 7, 2007. At hearing on December 8, 2012, the Claimant testified about an incident on January 4, 2008 where he pushed a heavy door and felt a burning sensation in his back. In the arbitration decision, the deputy awarded permanent total benefits. The deputy found the record did not support the employer’s position that the January 2008 injury was distinct from the March 7, 2007 injury. In regards to the permanent total disability, the deputy concluded that the Claimant could no longer drive a truck and his restrictions precluded him from returning to work as a millwright or welder.
After affirmance by the Commissioner, the employer appealed on the basis of error in finding a causal connection between the Claimant’s March 7, 2007 injury and his disability, that the evidence did not support a finding of permanent total disability and that the deputy ordered an incorrect commencement date for permanent benefits.
The Court first took up the issue of whether the Claimant’s March 7, 2007 injury was the cause of industrial disability. Specifically, the Court addressed the employer’s argument that the Claimant’s January 2008 door pushing incident was the cause of his subsequent back surgeries and claimed disability. The Court first noted that medical causation is a question of fact vested in the discretion of the agency and the agency’s decision would not be overturned if supported by substantial evidence.
In reviewing the record, the Court found the Claimant’s severe pain, surgeries and inability to work due to back pain occurred after the January 2008 incident, as he was working without complaint for several months subsequent to the March 2007 slip and fall injury. The Court also found that the expert testimony regarding causation did not support the finding that the March 2007 injury caused the Claimant’s disability. Specifically, the Court found that Dr. Hatfield’s opinion, which causally related the Claimant’s surgeries and disability to the March 2007 slip and fall, was based upon incomplete information as it appeared Dr. Hatfield was never made aware of the Claimant’s January 2008 incident and therefore could only relate the Claimant’s complaints to the March 2007 injury. The Court also found the opinion of Dr. Kuhnlein, who opined that the increase in severity after the January 2008 incident was a sequela of the original injury, was also faulty as it was based on the previous opinion of Dr. Hatfield which lacked an adequate history.
The Court found that the opinions of Dr. Kunhleing and Hatfield were not based on awareness of all the facts in the case, and as such, were not reliable. As the opinions were not reliable, they could not form the basis for substantial evidentiary support for the Agency’s decision. The Court then reversed and remanded the decision of the Agency. As the Court reversed on the grounds of causation, there was no need to discuss the additional issues raised on appeal.
Quaker Oats Company and Ace Cigna v. Larry Farar, Court of Appeals of Iowa, No. 3-654 / 13-0195
The Claimant began his employment with Quaker Oats in 1975. He worked numerous jobs, all of which involved heavy lifting and use of ladders and stairs. In 1996, the Claimant began to experience knee pain after sustaining a knee injury running a rail car. In 1997, his knee pain worsened and he was diagnosed with chronic right patellofemoral syndrome. These injuries were initially accepted, but in 1999, the employer declined to pay for further treatment.
In 2000, the Claimant reported an increase in knee pain and ultimately underwent a right knee scope with Dr. Craig Dove which revealed significant arthritic changes. Dr. Dove opined that the Claimant’s condition was partially work related, though the Claimant’s obesity contributed to the problem, as the Claimant’s weight would fluctuate anywhere between 320-375 pounds. Quaker denied Claimant’s right knee claim.
The Claimant then began treatment with Dr. Jeffrey Nassif who treated the Claimant with physical therapy and injections. The Claimant next saw Dr. James Pape in 2001 who opined he suffered from bilateral patellofemoral chondromalacia, a degenerative condition. Dr. Pape recommended anti-inflammatories, which continued for several years.
The Claimant returned to Dr. Nassif in 2007, and following an x-ray which revealed severe osteoarthritis of the bilateral knees, knee replacement surgery was recommended. The Clamiant submitted an incident report to Quaker in March of 2008 claiming that he had sustained bilateral knee injuries as a result of repetitive trauma.
The Claimant then began to experience wrist and hand problems in 2008 and 2009, for which he underwent two surgeries, requiring him to miss work for 3 months. The Claimant then underwent knee replacement surgery with Dr. Nassif on March 15 and May 17, 2010. Subsequent to surgery, the Claimant developed deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli conditions.
The Claimant was seen by Dr. Farid Manshadi, who placed him at MMI as of December 9, 2010, and also assigned the Claimant permanent partial impairment of 37% to the left leg and 39% to the right. He was next seen for an independent evaluation by Dr. William Jacobson on December 16, 2010, who assigned 50% permanent partial impairment to each of his legs.
The Claimant also apparently suffered from depression and anxiety, with symptoms beginning in 2008. Dr. Laurence Krain opined in a 2010 report that the Claimant’s inability to work was due to his depressive condition, which he has continued to receive treatment for.
The Claimant’s last day of employment with Quaker was March 12, 2010. He filed a petition with the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner in 2011. After hearing, the deputy found the Claimant’s work activities were a substantial cause of the his bilateral knee condition. It was further found that his deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary emboli were complications of the Claimant’s total knee replacements and were related to his March 14, 2008 cumulative injury. The employer appealed on the grounds that the decision was not supported by substantial evidence and misrepresented the record.
On appeal, the Court noted that medical causation is a question of fact vested in the discretion of the agency and the agency’s decision would not be overturned if supported by substantial evidence. After examining the medical opinions which were contained within the record, the Court found that while the weight of the medical evidence was contrary to the decision reached by the Agency, the Court determined that substantial evidence supported the agency’s finding of causation. Specifically, the Court found the opinion of Dr. Manshadi, who opined that the Claimant’s work caused his knee symptoms, provided enough evidence to sustain the agency’s finding of causation. The Court went on to note that while Dr. Nassif and Dr. Jacobson had opined the Claimant’s employment was not the cause of his bilateral knee condition, the Court’s job was not to determine whether a different conclusion could be reached but whether substantial evidence supported the findings actually made.
The Court further stated that the Agency had specifically given more weight to the opinions of Dr. Manshadi and the Claimant over those of Dr. Nassif and Dr. Jacobson, and that credibility determinations were within the province of the hearing deputy.
The Court next examined the issue of whether Claimant’s DVT and pulmonary emboli were causally related to his alleged cumulative injury. The Court noted that to so find, it would have to be found that the Claimant had sustained a work related injury which required surgery and that said surgery caused the DVT and pulmonary emboli. The Court ultimately found substantial evidence supported the finding that the DVT and emboli were caused by the Claimant’s bilateral knee replacements. Specifically, the Court found substantial evidence in the opinions of Dr. Manshadi and Dr. Nassif who opined that the surgery caused or could have been a contributing factor to the conditions.
In regards to the employer’s argument that the case should be remanded for a more complete record, specifically that the Agency further discuss in greater detail each doctor’s opinions, the Court found that remand was not appropriate. The Court opined that “even when a record is inadequate, remand for additional evidence is generally not appropriate and is only done when there are “good reasons.”” The Court declined to reweigh the evidence presented and remand the case for a more complete record. As such, the decision of the Agency was affirmed in its entirety.
If you have any questions on this, please feel free to call Mark Bosscher or Lee Hook at 515-243-2100. We'd be happy to help answer any questions you might have, big or small! You can also reach us at www.peddicordwharton.com