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McCarthy v. Jeld-Wen, Inc.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

JAMES MCCARTHY, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
v.
JELD-WEN, INC., Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert J. Blink, Judge.

James McCarthy appeals from the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner's findings that he is not permanently and totally disabled due to a respiratory injury and that his tinnitus did not arise out of his employment. The employer cross-appeals from an award of healing-period benefits for the respiratory injury.

Gary Nelson of Rush & Nicholson, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Joseph A. Quinn of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.

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

DANILSON, C.J.

James McCarthy appeals from the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner's finding that he is not permanently and totally disabled due to a respiratory injury and that his tinnitus did not arise out of his employment. Jeld-Wen, Inc. cross-appeals from the commissioner's decision, claiming McCarthy was not entitled to healing-period benefits, and the evidence does not support the commissioner's finding that he had an eighty percent industrial disability due to the respiratory injury. We affirm the decision of the commissioner on the appeal and the cross-appeal.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

McCarthy worked for Jeld-Wen from 1978 until 2009. In late 2008, he was exposed to isocyanates and developed a chronic cough, shortness of breath, and exercise fatigue. After his employment was terminated on July 30, 2009, due to a reduction in force, he petitioned the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner, alleging he had two separate injuries—an injury to his respiratory system and an injury to his hearing. Jeld-Wen admitted McCarthy suffered from a respiratory condition due to his exposure to isocyanates, but claimed he was not entitled to temporary total or additional permanent total disability benefits. As to the alleged hearing injury, tinnitus, the employer denied McCarthy sustained any damage arising out of and in the course of his employment.

After a hearing, a deputy commissioner issued a decision on September 1, 2011, finding McCarthy had not shown he sustained a tinnitus injury arising out of and in the course of his employment. The deputy determined McCarthy had reached maximum medical improvement on September 29, 2010. The deputy concluded McCarthy was entitled to receive healing period benefits from July 31, 2009, to September 29, 2010. Finally, the deputy determined McCarthy's permanent partial disability rating was eighty percent. The employer appealed and McCarthy cross-appealed.

The commissioner affirmed and adopted the deputy's decision. Both McCarthy and the employer sought judicial review of the commissioner's decision. The district court determined there was substantial evidence in the record to support commissioner's findings. McCarthy appeals and Jeld-Wen cross-appeals the district court's decision.

II. Standard of Review

Our review is governed by the Iowa Administrative Procedure Act, as set forth in Iowa Code chapter 17A. See Iowa Code § 17A.19 (2011). We apply the standards of this section to the commissioner's decision and then decide whether the district court correctly applied the law in exercising its function of judicial review. Lakeside Casino v. Blue, 743 N.W.2d 169, 172–73 (Iowa 2007). "The district court may grant relief if the agency action has prejudiced the substantial rights of the petitioner, and the agency action meets one of the enumerated criteria contained in section 17A.19(10)(a) through (n)." Renda v. Iowa Civil Rights Comm'n, 784 N.W.2d 8, 10 (Iowa 2010). Reviewing the record as a whole, we may reverse, modify, affirm, or remand to the agency for further proceedings if the agency's factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence, or ...


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