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Second Injury Fund and Indemnity Disputes Highlighted in Iowa Workers’ Compensation Symposium (Part 4 of 4)

27 Jun, 2023 Claire Muselman

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Mental Injury Claims, Jurisdictional Issues, and Disputes Involving the Second Injury Fund and Indemnity

Des Moines, IA (WorkersCompensation.com) -- The 61st Annual Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium continued its enlightening sessions, focusing on the agency case law update. During this session, legal experts Jordan Gehlhaar from Peddicord Wharton and Bryant Engbers from Spaulding & Shaull provided valuable insights into various topics, including mental injury claims, jurisdictional disputes, and challenges related to the Second Injury Fund and indemnity. The event at the Downtown Des Moines Marriott gathered legal practitioners, industry professionals, and policymakers eager to stay informed about the latest developments in Iowa's workers' compensation landscape.

Mental Injury Claims and the Second Injury Fund

One of the significant cases discussed during the session was Strable v. Second Injury Fund of Iowa, which revolved around whether a correctional facility nurse had a mental injury arising out of and in the course of her employment. The claimant, an RN at the Linn County Jail, experienced an incident where an inmate threw a milk carton filled with an unknown liquid at her. The Commissioner ruled that the claimant failed to prove a qualifying second injury, as the mental injury was deemed to be a direct result of the left ankle injury she sustained.

The case highlighted the challenges in establishing mental injuries as compensable under workers' compensation laws. It underscored the importance of providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the mental injury is not merely a consequence of the physical injury but has its roots in the workplace and the claimant's employment.

Williams v. Second Injury Fund of Iowa examined whether cerebral palsy qualified as a first qualifying loss in a claim against the Fund. The claimant, who had worked at Westside Auto Pros, pursued workers' compensation benefits for ankle injuries. However, the claimant failed to establish cerebral palsy as a first qualifying loss under Iowa Code section 85.64, as it is an injury to the brain and not a scheduled member.

Jurisdictional Issues and Alternate Medical Care

The session also delved into jurisdictional disputes and alternate medical care proceedings. Milbrandt v. R.R. Donnelly explored whether a compromise settlement between the claimant and the Second Injury Fund foreclosed claims against the employer and insurance carrier. The Deputy found that the approved compromise settlement constituted a final bar to further rights under Chapter 85 regarding the subject matter of the compromise, depriving the agency of jurisdiction to re-litigate the same.

The case raised important considerations regarding the finality of compromise settlements and their impact on future claims. It emphasized the need for claimants and parties involved to carefully evaluate the terms and implications of settlement agreements to ensure all relevant aspects of their claims are appropriately addressed.

In Tomayo-Perez v. Hormel Foods Corp., the question of whether the agency could permit Judicial Estoppel in Alternate Medical Care Proceedings was examined. The claimant had filed multiple Alternate Medical Care Petitions, and the agency found that once an employer admitted liability for a claim in an alternate medical care proceeding, it was bound by that assertion. Judicial Estoppel was deemed appropriate in this case.

The ruling highlighted the significance of consistency and fairness in workers' compensation proceedings. Employers are expected to honor their admission of liability in alternate medical care proceedings, preventing them from later denying liability and potentially depriving injured workers of necessary medical care.

Indemnity Disputes

The session also touched upon indemnity disputes. Teeters v. Menard, Inc. highlighted a case where a truck driver sustained a work injury while driving for Menard, Inc., and the company brought suit against a third-party tortfeasor for property damage to the truck. The claimant filed a separate tort action against the same tortfeasors. The court found Menard liable but ordered it to reimburse a proportionate share of the claimant's attorney fees and litigation costs from the personal injury suit. The case demonstrated the complex interplay between workers' compensation claims, indemnity disputes, and third-party liability.

Implications for Iowa's Workers' Compensation System

The insights provided during the agency case law update session shed light on the evolving nature of Iowa's workers' compensation system. Mental injury claims, jurisdictional disputes, and challenges involving the Second Injury Fund and indemnity require careful examination to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for all parties involved. Legal professionals, employers, and policymakers must stay abreast of these developments to navigate the complexities of workers' compensation law effectively.

The symposium continued to provide a platform for meaningful discussions and exchange of ideas, promoting a workers' compensation system that prioritizes the rights and well-being of injured workers while maintaining a fair balance between employers and employees. By staying informed about the latest case law updates, stakeholders can actively contribute to the ongoing improvement of Iowa's workers' compensation framework.

As the first session of the 61st Annual Iowa Workers' Compensation Symposium drew to a close, attendees left with a renewed sense of understanding and commitment to upholding the principles of fairness, justice, and protection within the state's workers' compensation system. The knowledge and insights gained from the event will undoubtedly shape the future of workers' compensation in Iowa, ensuring that the rights and interests of all stakeholders are respected and protected.


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    • Claire Muselman

      Meet Dr. Claire C. Muselman, the Chief Operating Officer at WorkersCompensation.com, where she blends her vast academic insight and professional innovation with a uniquely positive energy. As the President of DCM, Dr. Muselman is renowned for her dynamic approach that reshapes and energizes the workers' compensation industry. Dr. Muselman's academic credentials are as remarkable as her professional achievements. Holding a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University, she specializes in employee engagement, human behavior, and the science of leadership. Her diverse background in educational leadership, public policy, political science, and dance epitomizes a multifaceted approach to leadership and learning. At Drake University, Dr. Muselman excels as an Assistant Professor of Practice and Co-Director of the Master of Science in Leadership Program. Her passion for teaching and commitment to innovative pedagogy demonstrate her dedication to cultivating future leaders in management, leadership, and business strategy. In the industry, Dr. Muselman actively contributes as an Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation and plays key roles in organizations such as Kids Chance of Iowa, WorkCompBlitz, and the Claims and Litigation Management Alliance, underscoring her leadership and advocacy in workers’ compensation. A highly sought-after speaker, Dr. Muselman inspires professionals with her engaging talks on leadership, self-development, and risk management. Her philosophy of empathetic and emotionally intelligent leadership is at the heart of her message, encouraging innovation and progressive change in the industry. "Empowerment is key to progress. By nurturing today's professionals with empathy and intelligence, we're crafting tomorrow's leaders." - Dr. Claire C. Muselman

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