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Diane Cecilia Hansen v. Snap-On Tools Manufacturing Company

February 27, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Kossuth County, Nancy L. Whittenburg, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vogel, P.J.

A workers' compensation claimant appeals the district court's order on further review and her employer cross-appeals. AFFIRMED ON APPEAL; AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED ON CROSS-APPEAL.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

Diane Hansen appeals the district court's ruling on her petition for judicial review affirming the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission's determination of permanent partial disability benefits. Her employer, Snap-On Tools Manufacturing, cross-appeals arguing the district court erred in remanding to the commission to redetermine temporary benefits. Both parties appeal the determination of costs. Because the successive-disability statute is not applicable to "unscheduled permanent partial disability" cases, we affirm on that issue. There is also substantial evidence in the record to support the agency's determination of industrial disability and we affirm there as well. However, contrary to the district court's determination, we find the agency did not abuse its discretion in its determinations of costs under either the Iowa Code or administrative rules. In that same accord, because the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the parties evenly split the cost of judicial review, we affirm on that issue. Finally, because a portion of the agency decision is not sufficiently explained, we affirm the district court's remand of the determination of healing period benefits and temporary partial benefits.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

We accept the district court's concise fact findings:

Claimant Diane Hansen has worked at Snap-On and its predecessor since 1971, virtually her entire working life. Hansen worked in various departments, including electrical, pack, and ball slide. The work in the pack department is more physically demanding than the work in the other two departments. Before February 15, 2005 injury, Hansen had health problems including carpal tunnel syndrome, right shoulder overuse problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and a hiatel hernia.

Hansen filed a petition seeking workers' compensation benefits on July 10, 2008. . . . The parties agree that Hansen sustained two injuries. The first occurred on February 15, 2005, when Hansen injured her left shoulder while working in the pack department at Snap-On. Hansen's second injury occurred on September 11, 2007. Hansen sustained an injury to her right hand/arm, also while working in Snap-On's pack department. In regards to the February 15, 2005 injury, Hansen alleged the injury manifested over a period of time by "microtraumata." Following the February 15, 2005 injury, Hansen had left shoulder arthroscopic surgery, where Dr. Phillip A. Deffer debrided the biceps tendon and decompressed soft tissue within the subacromial space. The surgery was performed on June 3, 2005, and Hansen was returned to work with restrictions on June 10, 2005. Following the surgery, Hansen continued to experience some shoulder pain as well as depression. Dr. Deffer placed Hansen at maximum medical improvement on February 10, 2006. Hansen underwent an independent medical examination conducted by Dr. John Kuhnlein on February 6, 2009. Dr. Kuhnlein concluded, in part, that Hansen had a material change in her left shoulder condition related to the February 15, 2005 injury which he thought was an acute injury superimposed on a cumulative process.

On September 11, 2007, Hansen suffered an injury while putting drawers in toolboxes in the pack department at Snap-On. . . . After continuing problems, Dr. Deffer performed a right synovectomy in the right-hand fourth dorsal compartment and side-to-side transfer of the extensor indicis proprius tendon on May 9, 2008. Dr. Deffer opined that Hansen reached maximum medical improvement on July 23, 2008.

The deputy commissioner concluded the February 15, 2005 injury resulted in Hansen sustaining a fifteen-percent industrial loss entitling her to seventy-five weeks of permanent partial disability pursuant to Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(u) (2005).*fn1

The deputy referenced an attached hearing report outlining the temporary benefits Hansen was paid but never expressly accepted or rejected the amounts, but simply stated they were paid. The deputy also found Dr. Kuhnlein's bill for the independent medical evaluation (IME) totaling $9502.50, was unreasonable and Snap-On should only be responsible to reimburse Hansen $2890. The commissioner affirmed the deputy's findings with a slight modification to a mileage reimbursement calculation.

On judicial review, finding the deputy failed to analyze or provide rationale for the healing period benefits, the district court remanded to the commission to determine the correct amounts of healing period benefits, the due date of those benefits, the appropriateness of any penalty, and whether interest should be assessed. The district court also remanded for the commission to make the same determinations regarding the award of temporary partial benefits. Lastly, the district court remanded the issue regarding Dr. Kuhnlein's fee, finding the deputy's pathway to the determination of the allowable fee was not clear and a remand was necessary for further findings.

On judicial review, Hansen made extensive argument to the district court regarding the constitutionality of the successive disability statute, the applicability of the statute, and whether there was substantial evidence to support the deputy's industrial disability award. The district court reserved the constitutional issue for an appellate court, and found the deputy's decision was supported by substantial evidence.

Hansen appeals claiming the district court erred by failing to reverse the commissioner for failing to apply the successive-disability statute and all the industrial disability factors. She also claims the district court erred by taxing one-half the costs on judicial review to Hansen and by affirming the commissioner's failure to explain why it did not tax as costs Dr. Kuhnlein's IME fee. Snap-On cross-appeals, arguing the commissioner was correct in its determination regarding Dr. Kuhnlein's fee and the commissioner ...

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