September/October Case Law Update

  • Oct 18, 2021

By Attorneys Alison Stewart and Nick Cooling and Law Clerk Jordan Gehlhaar

The issue in Masterbrand Cabinets, Inc. v. Simons was whether a tear of the claimant’s right quadriceps tendon was a scheduled injury of the leg or a whole body injury. The employer argued this was scheduled under 85.34 (2)(p) because it only involved the knee and thigh, and the claimant never reported hip pain to his surgeon. The claimant argued the injury was to the body as a whole due to loss of hip flexion, range of motion, and strength. The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s industrial award, finding that although this was a scheduled injury to the leg, the effects or disability extended beyond that member, resulting in impairment to the body as a whole.

If a timely appeal has not been filed, any party in interest may file a decision of the Commissioner with the district court for entry of judgment. This statutory provision was at issue in Reinsbach v. Great Lakes Cooperative. In 2013, after a review-reopening hearing, the Commissioner ordered the employer to pay over $250,000 for medical expenses and transportation; the order also provided defendants were to provide future care and treatment of the back condition as recommended by claimant’s doctor. The employer paid all past expenses. In 2019, the claimant filed with the district court a request for entry of judgment under Iowa Code 86.42 to enforce the 2013 Commissioner ruling. The proposed judgment stated the employer and insurance carrier shall provide “all future care and treatment modalities for his back condition recommended by [his doctor].” The employer challenged entry of judgment based on the monetary portion being satisfied, and alternatively proposed the following language: “provide all causally related, reasonable, and necessary care for Petitioner’s 04/15/2005 work-related back condition.” Judgment was entered resembling the employer’s proposed language and the employee appealed. The Court of Appeals upheld the judgment, finding that removal of “reasonable and necessary” would modify the Commissioner’s ruling – which is beyond the power of the court.

Substantial evidence must support a work injury for compensability. The claimant in Tew v. Sparboe Farms, Inc. challenged the Commissioner’s finding that there was not substantial evidence to support a cumulative work injury. Evidence revealed that Claimant Tew had occasional flare ups from a preexisting back condition, had reported several non-employment related causes of pain to his supervisor, asked about disability leave stating he did not qualify for workers’ compensation, and did not mention a work-related injury to treating physicians until after he filed his petition. When there are contradicting accounts of an event, the Commissioner’s decision is based upon weight of the evidence and credibility of witnesses. The supervisor was found more credible than the claimant, who failed to meet his burden of proving a work-related injury. Therefore, denial of benefits was affirmed.


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