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Legal Update by Attorney Alison Stewart
Recently, the Iowa Court of Appeals handed down some decisions relating to workers’ compensation.
Timely Filing of a Review-Reopening Petition
Pella Corp. v. Winn,File No. 17-1545, 2019 WL 156579 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2019)
The Iowa Court of Appeals recently addressed the timely filing of a review-reopening petition and simultaneous payment of PPD and PTD benefits. InPella Corporation v. Winn, the Claimant applied for review-reopening of a prior award where only entitlement to medical benefits were addressed. The Court of Appeals held that it had no authority to disrupt the opinion of the Iowa Supreme Court inBeier Glass Company v. Brundige, wherein the Court held that where no weekly benefits have been paid, review-reopening is timely filed so long as it is within three years from the date of the award or memorandum of agreement. 329 N.W.2d 2d 280 (Iowa 1983). The Court of Appeals did indicate it sympathized with the employer’s position that the plain language of the statute compels a finding that an “award” eligible for review-reopening cannot include an award of only medical benefits, but that it had no authority to disrupt the authority of the Supreme Court. The Claimant was then allowed to have her entitlement to all benefits (weekly indemnity benefits included) reviewed.
Simultaneous Payment of PPD and PTD Benefits
This decision also addresses a Claimant’s ability to collect permanency benefits for one injury and permanent total disability injuries for another injury at the same time. This is something that has been addressed by the recently passed legislation in July of 2017, but the Court of Appeals confirmed here that it is possible for Claimants to receive such benefits at the same time for injuries occurring before the legislative changes.
Bad Faith Action Permitted Without Underlying Award of Penalty Benefits
Dunlap v. AIG, Inc., Commerce and Industry Insurance Company,File No. 17-1503, 2019 WL 141012 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2019)
In a bad faith case, the Iowa Court of Appeals faced whether it was reasonable for an employer to rely upon a medical opinion indicating medical causation did not exist where three other medical opinions indicated medical causation did exist. The Court of Appeals found that the district court erred when it dismissed the suit on Motion for Summary Judgment because a reasonable fact finder could find the defendant’s reliance was simply not reasonable since they were aware their other experts had opined causation existed and the expert opinion defendants relied upon clarified his opinion with a condition that could change his opinion from possible causation to probable causation. We do not have the ultimate outcome of this issue because the case was remanded, but it is significant because penalty benefits were not awarded at the agency level since a medical opinion supporting the causation denial was contained in the record; however, the bad faith survived Motion for Summary Judgment.
Employee’s Failure to Preserve Error Resulted in Reversal
Lynch Livestock, Inc. and Nationwide Agribusiness Ins. Co.,v. Kenneth Bursell, File No. 17-1629 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 6, 2019)
The Court of Appeals confirmed Claimant failed to preserve the issue of whether substantial evidence supported the agency finding that Claimant’s unauthorized treatment was reasonable and beneficial. As such, the district court had erred in concluding the employer owed the medical.