Neifert, Byrne & Ozga, P.C.

Welcome to the blog for Neifert, Byrne & Ozga, P.C., devoted to developments in the field of workers' compensation in the State of Iowa. We hope the blog provides helpful information to users, including updates of Iowa Supreme Court and Court of Appeals cases of interest to claimants and workers' compensation practitioners.

Neifert, Byrne & Ozga represents only injured workers in workers' compensation claims in Iowa. This blog is meant to provide accurate and updated information on state of workers' compensation claims in our state. Should you have further questions, please contact us at Neifert, Byrne & Ozga, P.C, 1441 29th Street, Suite 111, West Des Moines, IA 50266. Tel. 888-926-2117 (toll free). Visit us on the web at www.nbolawfirm.com or www.iowa-workers-comp.com.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Court of Appeals Affirms Award of Permanent Total Disability

In Care Initiatives v. Hoffman, No. 13-0748 (Iowa App. Feb. 19, 2014), the court affirmed the award of permanent total disability, finding that the decision of the agency was supported by substantial evidence.  Claimant suffered a shoulder injury at work, and was terminated by the nursing home because of the restrictions placed on her by her treating physician.  Claimant subsequently had reverse right shoulder replacement surgery.

At hearing, claimant offered into evidence a spreadsheet demonstrating that she had applied for work with approximately 150 employers, but had not been able to obtain employment.   She also sought assistance through Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation, where she was placed on a waiting list for services.  Claimant complained of pain.  Kent Jayne issued a vocational report indicating that claimant was precluded from work.  Defendants vocational expert, Shannon Ford, believed that claimant, who was 65 years of age, could perform office work.  She admitted that she did not consider claimant's pain in reaching her decision.

At hearing, deputy Walleser found that claimant had made a lackluster attempt to find work, and discredited Jayne's opinion because it was stock language that the deputy regularly encountered in his reports.  She found that the lack of effort to make personal contact with potential employers signified a lack of genuine motivation to find employment.  The deputy concluded that claimant had a 75% industrial loss.  On appeal, the commissioner noted that claimant had been discharged from employment as a result of her injuries, and indicated that the vocational report of Mr. Jayne was based on his assessment of claimant's condition.  The commissioner found that claimant was permanently and totally disabled.

On review, the employer acknowledged that it was the commissioner's decision that was being reviewed, but argued that weight should have been given to the deputy's findings.  Citing to section 17A.19(10)(f)(3), the employer argued that the court must consider the entire record.  The court found that the deputy's credibility findings were entitled to consideration on judicial review, but were "not controlling and we give no particular deference to them."  The court also concluded that the consideration of the deputy's findings did not change the standard that was applied in reviewing the claim for substantial evidence.

The court concluded that the decision of the commissioner was supported by substantial evidence.  The court reviewed the testimony of claimant and Kent Jayne and found that the record supported the commissioner's view of his credibility.  The court also found that the finding of permanent total disability was supported by substantial evidence.  The court also found that nothing in the record supported the employer's suggestion that the decision was based on an irrational, illogical or wholly unjustifiable application of law to fact.  The decision of the commissioner was affirmed.

An Application for Further Review was filed with the Supreme Court and denied on August 13, 2014.