Happy New Year from Peddicord Wharton! Here is what’s new in Iowa:
- The Iowa Court of Appeals recently affirmed a favorable agency decision in Harrod v. Advance Services, Inc. and Ace American Insurance Company. The case was defended by Peddicord Wharton attorneys Tim Wegman and Alison Stewart. Claimant Leslie Harrod appealed a district court decision affirming a final Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner decision to reduce Claimant’s industrial disability award from 40% to 25% industrial disability on the basis that it was supported by Substantial evidence. In addition, the Court of Appeals held that Claimant failed to prove entitlement to alternate medical care and penalty benefits. Deputy McElderry awarded 40% and Deputy Commissioner Fitch (upon delegation from Commissioner Cortese) reduced the award to 25%. The Court of Appeals reasoned the Commissioner decision was appropriate because consideration was given to the several industrial disability factors. Specifically, Claimant’s inability to complete a certified nursing assistant program she attended following high school caused the reviewing deputy to question the likelihood of her success in further training, despite Claimant’s statement during the hearing that she was interested in pursuing further education. The reviewing deputy also found that while Claimant could pass the pre-employment physical examination for working as an egg packager for Rembrandt, it was unclear whether she would have been physically capable of maintaining this position long-term. For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decisions of the agency and district court.
- Attorneys Steve Spencer and Chris Spencer were successful in defending another case recently decided by the Iowa Court of Appeals. In Lewis v. Windsor Windows & Doors and Twin City Fire Insurance Company, the Court affirmed an agency decision appealed by the Claimant, in which it was determined the injury alleged did not arise out of and in the course of employment. The issue was Claimant’s credibility and the Commissioner specifically indicated that he gave considerable deference to the findings of fact which were impacted by the credibility findings. The Court was satisfied by the agency’s detailed analysis of the conflicting evidence and explanation of how its decision was reached. As a result, the Court indicated that the record as a whole contained substantial evidence to support the Commissioner’s findings.
- There are two new Workers’ Compensation Deputy Commissioners. Jessica Cleereman will start January 24, 2020. Deputy Cleereman is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota originally and has practiced at various insurance defense firms in the Des Moines area since graduating from Valparaiso University School of Law in 2005. Andrew Phillips will start March 6, 2020. Deputy Phillips will replace Deputy Michele McGovern, who will retire early this year. Deputy Phillips has worked in the insurance industry in the Des Moines area since graduating from Drake Law School in 2010.
- The mailing address for the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has changed. The new mailing address is 150 Des Moines Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. Carriers should update their forms requiring communication with injured workers accordingly. One example is the Auxier notice. If you have questions about this, please reach out to any of the workers’ compensation attorneys at Peddicord Wharton.
- The DWC recently provided additional information relating to vocational training and education available to employees who sustain a work injury to the shoulder (after July 1, 2017) and are unable to return to gainful employment due to the resulting permanent partial disability. If these qualifications are satisfied, Iowa Workforce Development (IWD), upon written application, will evaluate the employee and determine whether that employee would benefit from a vocational education and training program at a qualifying community college. If the employee qualifies, they must enroll in the community college program within six months of the IWD referral to the program. The employee is eligible for up to $15,000 support toward tuition, fees, and purchase of supplies required to participate in the program. More information about the process and qualifying fields can be found here.
- SF2003 was recently introduced in the legislature. The proposed change relates to Iowa Code section 85.27 as it specifically pertains to the furnishing of prosthetic devices. Currently, Iowa Code section 85.27(1) states that “the employer shall also furnish reasonable and necessary crutches, artificial members and appliances but shall not be required to furnish more than one set of permanent prosthetic devices.” The proposed change states “a person shall be entitled to replacement of a prosthetic device, including subsequent replacements, by the employer if the prosthetic device is needed as a result of a compensable injury, and the replacement of the prosthetic device would otherwise be considered reasonable medical care under this chapter.” If the proposal passes, an injured worker will be entitled to replacement of a prosthetic device so long as the device would otherwise be considered reasonable medical care. We will monitor this proposed change and provide updates accordingly.
Legal Update by Attorney Alison Stewart, an attorney with Peddicord Wharton. Peddicord Wharton is a member of the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. If you have any questions about this submission or Iowa workers’ compensation in general, please contact Alison by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her directly at 515-243-2100.
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