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Martinez Construction v. Ceballos

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 12, 2013

MARTINEZ CONSTRUCTION, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
CESAR CEBALLOS, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Sean W. McPartland, Judge.

An employer appeals from the decision awarding Cesar Ceballos workers' compensation benefits.

James M. Peters and Carrie L. Thompson of Simmons, Perrine, Moyer & Bergman, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Katrina A. Nystrom of Scheldrup, Blades, Schrock, Smith & Aranza, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Cesar Ceballos was awarded workers' compensation benefits after falling from a roof while at work. His former employer, Martinez Construction, appeals from the commissioner's award of benefits, arguing the commissioner improperly interpreted Iowa law to award benefits solely on lay testimony regarding causation. The employer also contends the commissioner violated a valid agency rule in taxing to it the cost of Ceballos's international phone call to participate in the hearing.

We find expert medical opinion testimony was not required to establish causation under the facts of this case. Because substantial evidence supports the commissioner's finding that Ceballos's injuries were caused by his fall, we affirm the award of workers' compensation benefits. We reverse the portion of the commissioner's decision taxing the cost of Ceballos's telephonic testimony to Martinez Construction.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Ceballos was employed by Martinez Construction doing roofing work. On May 24, 2009, Ceballos was standing on a roof when he lost his footing as he attempted to jump into a forklift basket. As he was landing, he hit his face and right shoulder, and twisted his left knee. Ceballos was knocked unconscious and was in and out of consciousness as he was transported to the hospital. He reported being in pain and was having difficulty breathing.

Hospital records show Ceballos suffered four broken ribs and a perforated lung. He was hospitalized for these injuries for approximately one week. When he was discharged from the hospital, Ceballos was restricted from lifting more than ten pounds. He did not return to work for Martinez Construction because of his physical condition.

On August 21, 2009, Ceballos saw Dr. Patrick Gordon, complaining of difficulty lifting his right shoulder and arm and problems with his left knee. Dr. Gordon ordered x-rays, which revealed Ceballos's shoulder was dislocated and that he had fluid on his left knee. Ceballos was to return to Dr. Gordon after the x-rays were developed, but was deported to Mexico before he could attend the follow-up appointment.

In September 2010, Ceballos sought medical treatment from a doctor in Mexico, who indicated Ceballos needed an x-ray of his shoulder and knee. Although the x-rays were taken, Ceballos had not received those results at the time of the workers' compensation hearing.

Ceballos filed a petition for workers' compensation benefits, which Martinez Construction contested. A hearing was held before a deputy workers' compensation commissioner on September 23, 2010. Ceballos requested to appear at the hearing by telephone and Martinez Construction resisted, arguing Ceballos needed to be personally present at the hearing to allow his demeanor to be assessed to determine his credibility. The deputy commissioner granted Ceballos's ...


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