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Larson Mfg. Co. v. Wander

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 23, 2014

LARSON MANUFACTURING COMPANY and ZURICH NORTH AMERICAN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
ALLEN G. WANDER, Defendant-Appellee

Editorial Note:

This decision has been referenced in a "Decisions Without Published Opinions" table in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert J. Blink, Judge. Larson Manufacturing Company and Zurich North American appeal from the denial of their petition for judicial review of the acting workers' compensation commissioner's award of benefits to Allen G. Wander.

Stephanie L. Marett of Nyemaster Goode, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

James T. Fitzsimmons of Fitzsimmons & Vervaecke Law Firm, P.L.C., Mason City, for appellee.

Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Potterfield, JJ.

OPINION

POTTERFIELD, J.

Larson Manufacturing Company (Larson) and Zurich North American (Zurich) appeal from the denial of their petition for judicial review of the workers' compensation commissioner's award of benefits to Allen Wander. Larson and Zurich argue substantial evidence does not support a finding of medical causation and the acting commissioner's application of law to the facts was irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable. We affirm.

I. Facts and Proceedings.

On March 24, 2005, Allen Wander injured himself while lifting a wooden storm door core onto an assembly line for installation while working at Larson Manufacturing Company. He immediately felt pain in his right lower back and was sent by Larson to Dr. Mixdorf. Dr. Mixdorf treated Wander until April 22, 2005, when he referred Wander to a neurosurgeon--Dr. Walski-Easton--for more extensive treatment. Dr. Walski-Easton prescribed several high-dose steroid regimens between May 2005 and July 2006. Dr. Walski-Easton also ordered an MRI in July 2005, which showed a broad-based disk bulge and possible avascular necrosis.[1]

Wander began seeing Dr. O'Rourke in September 2005. O'Rourke reviewed the MRI and found the avascular necrosis worsened over the next two years. Dr. O'Rourke concluded the March 24, 2005, work injury aggravated or accelerated the problem in Wander's right hip. In January 2008, Wander began seeing Dr. Noiseux for his ongoing pain. Dr. Noiseux agreed Wander's necrosis was caused or materially aggravated by the work injury. This conclusion was based on Wander's reports and the records indicating the increase in avascular necrosis. Dr. Noiseux performed a total hip replacement on February 22, 2008.

Wander also began exhibiting necrosis in his shoulder. In March 2009, Larson contacted Dr. Emerson again for an opinion regarding the cause of Wander's necrosis. Dr. Emerson concluded the necrosis was likely a condition that existed prior to March 2005 but was aggravated by the accident. Dr. Emerson noted the steroid treatment could have worsened the necrosis. That same month, Wander was seen by Dr. Galles regarding his shoulder. Dr. Galles concluded the necrosis in Wander's shoulder (and hip) resulted from the steroid treatment for his pain.

Wander filed a petition in arbitration for workers' compensation benefits. A hearing was held November 4, 2009. The parties stipulated that Wander's shoulder necrosis arose out of his steroid treatment. The deputy workers' compensation commissioner concluded Wander's hip necrosis arose from the March 2005 incident.

Larson and Zurich appealed the decision. In its final agency decision, the deputy workers' compensation commissioner (as acting workers' compensation commissioner)[2] affirmed the arbitration decision, noting the deficiencies in the opinions of all the physicians who rendered opinions about Wander's condition. Ultimately, the deputy commissioner affirmed, concluding " the views of treating physician Dr. Noiseux . . . are simply more convincing than Dr. Emerson." ...


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