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Westling v. Hormel Foods Corp.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

DONALD A. WESTLING, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
HORMEL FOODS CORPORATION, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Carla T. Schemmel, Judge.

         A workers' compensation claimant seeks to overturn the commissioner's denial of alternative care under Iowa Code section 85.27(4) (2011). AFFIRMED.

          Mark S. Soldat of Soldat & Parrish-Sams, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Valerie A. Landis of Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         Claimant Donald Westling contends the workers' compensation commissioner wrongly denied his application for alternate medical care under Iowa Code section 85.27(4) (2011). Westling's application sought treatment for his right knee, which he injured in 1993 and 1996 while working at Hormel Foods Corporation. After several surgeries, including a total knee replacement in 2005, Westling continued to experience pain in his knee and received authorization from Hormel to see orthopedic surgeon Michael Crane. After examining Westling's knee, Dr. Crane recommended Westling wait until he had "more trouble" before considering revision surgery. Westling asserts Dr. Crane's August 9, 2011 "diagnostic examination" did not constitute "treatment" under section 85.27(4).

         The commissioner decided Westling did not meet his burden to show he was entitled to alternate medical care. In the commissioner's view, reasonable care included services "necessary to diagnose the condition" and Westling did not show the services provided by Dr. Crane were unreasonable. The district court ruled the commissioner identified sufficient facts to justify her denial of alternate care. Because the record amply supports the commissioner's conclusion Westling did not show the authorized care was unreasonable, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Westling worked for Hormel for thirty years, starting in 1976. During that time, Westling twice injured his right knee at the meatpacking plant and received workers' compensation payments for those injuries, including ongoing medical benefits. Westling underwent several surgeries on his knee, including one in 1998 performed by Dr. Crane. Westling suffered deep venous thrombosis (DVT) as a result of that surgery. After those complications, Westling opted to be seen by Dr. Adrian Wolbrink, who performed a total knee replacement in 2005. Westling retired from Hormel the following year and moved to Milford, Iowa.

         Experiencing continued problems with his knee, Westling went to his Milford family-care provider in June 2011, and he was referred to Dr. Gregory Alvine with Core Orthopedics in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Hormel instead approved an appointment with Dr. Crane in Mason City. On October 19, 2011, Dr. Crane performed a clinical examination of Westling's knee, as well as ordering and reviewing x-rays. Westling testified Dr. Crane spent "probably ten minutes" talking to him during the appointment.

         Dr. Crane made the following notes regarding the appointment:

Donald Westling is seen today for evaluation of his right total knee replacement done in 2005. Prior to that he had a proximal tibial osteotomy in 1996-1997. He states the knee hurts off and on. It feels like it will give out on ...

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