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Iowa Top Court Holds that Worker didn’t Certify Experts on Time

15 Jan, 2024 Frank Ferreri

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Des Moines, IA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- In Iowa, to get experts' reports into evidence, a workers' compensation claimant must certify those experts as experts within statutorily defined timeframes.

Because a worker did not do so in Hagen v. Serta/National Bedding Co., LLC, No. 22-0684 (Iowa 01/05/24), her claim didn't have the benefit of those experts' opinions on its side.

The worker was injured during the course of her employment when a cart weighing upwards of 350 pounds rolled over her right foot.

The worker underwent an independent medical examination, and the doctor who performed it opined that the worker had reached maximum medical improvement.

The worker filed an arbitration petition seeking workers' compensation benefits. A workers' compensation commissioner filed an order setting an arbitration hearing, at which one of the disputed issues would be whether the worker was permanently and totally disabled. The order also established deadlines for discovery and the exchange and filing of witness and exhibit lists and proposed exhibits.

The worker filed proposed hearing exhibits, but she did not timely certify the doctors whose reports were in the exhibits as experts. As a result, the deputy commissioner hearing the case excluded the reports and ultimately concluded that the worker had an industrial disability of 60 percent. The deputy commissioner also determined that the worker reached MMI but failed to prove that she was permanently and totally disabled. The deputy ordered the employer to pay the worker benefits due to its late payment of benefits on five occasions.

On appeal, a commissioner upheld the deputy's decision but increased the amount of penalty benefits that the employer had to pay the worker for the late payment and also order the employer to reimburse the worker for the cost of the IME.

The worker then petitioned for judicial review in district court, which reversed the commissioner's decision excluding the reports. In turn, the employer appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

In Iowa, commissioners are statutorily required to adopt and enforce rules necessary to implement Iowa's workers' compensation.

In this case, the Iowa Supreme Court held that the commissioner did just that in upholding the deputy's decision.

"The prejudice resulting from the untimely designation of an expert need not be great to justify the commissioner’s exclusion of that expert’s testimony," the court explained. "[The worker's] failure to timely certify [the doctors] as experts or submit their reports left [the employer] in the dark about the experts they were supposed to be preparing for and little time to evaluate and respond to these experts’ reports."

As a result, the court remanded the case to the lower court to enter a judgment affirming the commissioner's decision.


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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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