In Bos v. Climate Engineers, No. 17-0159 (Iowa App. Nov. 22, 2017), the commissioner had concluded that claimant did not have a claim for depression following a shoulder injury and rejected the report of claimant's family physician that the depression was connected to the underlying injury. The commissioner also allowed the admission of a vocational report from defendants even though the expert had not been named in a timely fashion and had not been produced until 18 days before hearing.
The district court affirmed the commissioner's action with respect to the doctor's findings, but rejected the admission of the late vocational report and remanded to the agency for further opinion.
Both parties appealed to the Court of Appeals. On the evidentiary issue, the court found that even though the opinion of the family doctor had been unrebutted, the commissioner was within his rights to reject that evidence. The commissioner had found that it had been several months from the time of the injury until claimant reported his depression, that claimant was not receiving counseling or treatment for depression with the exception of medications and that the doctor's opinion that most people suffering from a disabling physical injury develop depression was not supported in the record. The court finds that the determination of how much weight to give an opinion was generally within the peculiar province of the commissioner. The court stated that even when evidence is uncontroverted, so long as valid reasons for rejecting the evidence are proferred, the rejection of the evidence is supported by substantial evidence.
The court reversed the district court on the admission of the vocational report, even though that report was late. The court found that rulings on a report's admissibility were within the discretion of the agency, and would be reversed only if there were an abuse of discretion. The court also found that claimant was not unfairly surprised by the change in the identity of the expert. Since the agency had offered claimant time to rebut the report, any prejudice from the late disclosure was eliminated. Based on these conclusions, the court reversed the district court's decision and affirmed the decision of the agency.
Untimely reports have been a major source of conflict within the agency. Despite the fact that the rules provide that reports are to be provided 30 or more days in advance of hearing, many reports are allowed despite violating that rule, and the violation of the rules seems to be the norm rather than the exception. Decisions such as this will
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