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Burrage v. Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, Health Inspections Division

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

MERIA BURRAGE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF INSPECTIONS AND APPEALS, HEALTH INSPECTIONS DIVISION, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

Meria Burrage appeals the district court's ruling on judicial review upholding a finding of dependent adult abuse.

Tomas J. Rodriguez, Moline, Illinois, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

DANILSON, J.

The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) concluded that Meria Burrage committed dependent adult abuse on a dependent adult by negligently causing the victim physical injury in grabbing the victim's arm with sufficient force to cause a large bruise. The district court upheld that conclusion and Burrage appeals. We conclude the agency erred in interpreting Iowa Code section 235B.2(5)(a) (2007), and we therefore reverse and remand with directions.

Iowa Code section 235B.2(5)(a) provides:

"Dependent adult abuse" means: (1) Any of the following as a result of the willful or negligent acts or omissions of a caretaker: (a) Physical injury to, or injury which is at a variance with the history given of the injury, or unreasonable confinement, unreasonable punishment, or assault of a dependent adult.

"Determination of the statutory requirements for dependent adult abuse has not been explicitly vested in the agency's discretion. As a result, our review is for corrections of errors at law." Wyatt v. Iowa Dep't of Human Servs., 744 N.W.2d 89, 93 (Iowa 2008) (citation omitted); see also Iowa Code § 17A.19(10)(c).

In Wyatt, 744 N.W.2d at 94, the supreme court rejected the State's argument that "negligent assault" was sufficient for purposes of Iowa Code section 235B.2(5). The court wrote:

The State argues that the introduction to the provision plainly states that dependent adult abuse may be committed by the "willful or negligent acts or omissions of a caretaker." Iowa Code § 235B.2(5)(a)(1).
We disagree. This prefatory language does not recognize "negligent assault." Instead, we interpret the preface as providing general introductory language that is broad enough to cover the intent requirement of all categories of dependent abuse. Some of the categories, such as abuse arising out of sexual acts or assault, require willful or intentional acts, while other types of abuse, such as deprivation of food, shelter, and clothing, may arise from negligent acts or omissions. We further note that the theory of "negligent assault" is inconsistent with DHS's own rule, which incorporates the definition of assault in Iowa Code section 708.1. We, therefore, hold that the elements of assault as described in State v. Bedard[, 668 N.W.2d 598, 601(Iowa 2003), ] and State v. Keeton[, 710 N.W.2d 531, 533-34 (Iowa 2006), ] are applicable to this case.

Wyatt, 744 N.W.2d at 94. Because there had been no finding of intent to harm or to offensively contact the dependent adult, the supreme court ordered the care worker's name be ...


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