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Cooksey v. Cargill, Inc.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 2, 2013

JEREMIE J. COOKSEY, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
CARGILL, INC., CARGILL MEAT SOLUTIONS CORP., and CARGILL ANIMAL PROTEIN-WAPELLO COUNTY FACILITY, Respondents-Appellees.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Eliza J. Ovrom, Judge.

Claimant appeals the district court's decision affirming the agency's dismissal, without a hearing, of his application for alternate medical care pursuant to Iowa Administrative Code rule 876-4.48(7).

Philip F. Miller, West Des Moines, and Harry W. Dahl of Harry W. Dahl, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Andrew T. Tice of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

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

DANILSON, J.

Jeremie Cooksey appeals the district court's decision affirming the Iowa Workers' Compensation agency's dismissal, without a hearing, of his application for alternate medical care pursuant to Iowa Administrative Code rule 876-4.48(7). He contends that his employer, Cargill Incorporated, was judicially estopped from denying its liability after failing to dispute it in previous hearings. He also claims the dismissal of his application without a hearing to determine liability was an interpretation of the rule which was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion, and violated his right to due process. Because we conclude that Cargill was not judicially estopped from denying liability and there was no due process violation, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On December 30, 2008, Cooksey suffered an alleged injury while working for Cargill. At Cargill's recommendation Cooksey was treated by Dr. David Hatfield. Cooksey filed his first application for alternate medical care, pursuant to rule 4.48(7), on April 12, 2010. Cargill answered the petition and stated, "Respondents do not dispute liability on this claim at this juncture however discovery is continuing." A hearing was held, during which Cargill confirmed it did not dispute liability. However, during the hearing the parties came to an agreement that Cooksey could obtain a second medical opinion from Dr. Chad Abernathy for the purpose of future treatment recommendation. In response, Cooksey agreed to request dismissal of his application for alternate medical care. On April 23, 2010, the deputy approved the request and the application was dismissed without prejudice and without a decision on the merits.

On July 16, 2010, Cooksey filed a second application for alternate medical care. Before Cargill responded, Cooksey filed a motion to dismiss without prejudice. The deputy sustained the motion on July 28, 2010. The order states Cooksey dismissed the application because Cargill authorized Dr. Donna Bahls to evaluate and treat Cooksey's back pain and complaints.

In February 2011, Cargill received reports from two physicians which questioned the causation of Cooksey's symptoms.[1] In August Cargill received a report, at its request, from Dr. Charles Wadle who had performed a mental health examination on Cooksey on August 12, 2011. In it he concluded that Cooksey had no identifiable psychiatric diagnosis.

On August 26, 2011, Dr. Bahls, the physician authorized by Cargill to treat Cooksey at the time, recommended continued treatment for the work-related injuries and advised it would be beneficial for Cooksey to receive alternate evaluation and care through the Spine Clinic of University of Iowa or Mayo Clinic. Soon after Cargill advised Dr. Bahls that she was no longer authorized to provide Cooksey medical treatment.

Cooksey then filed his third and final application for alternate medical care on February 28, 2012. In its answer Cargill disputed liability. The deputy commissioner then dismissed the application pursuant to rule 4.48(7).[2] In the order dismissing the application the deputy stated: "An application for alternative medical care is only available when defendants do not dispute liability for the medical condition for which care is sought. As defendants deny liability, the original notice and petition concerning claimant's application for alternate medical care must be dismissed." In the order the deputy also barred Cargill from asserting a lack of authorization defense in the future if Cooksey sought to recover costs incurred in obtaining medical care.

Following the dismissal Cooksey filed a request for findings of fact and specific ruling and an amended request based on denial of due process and judicial estoppel. The deputy denied both requests. Cooksey then filed a petition for new trial and hearing and was also denied. Pursuant to Iowa Code section 86.3, the deputy ...


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