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Myers v. R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

DAVID MYERS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
R.R. DONNELLY & SONS COMPANY and NEW HAMPSHIRE INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A. Romano, Judge.

         An employee appeals the district court's decision affirming the ruling of the workers' compensation commissioner finding his request for benefits was untimely. AFFIRMED.

          Robert R. Rush and Christoph P. Rupprecht of Rush & Nicholson, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Timothy W. Wegman and Joseph M. Barron of Peddicord Wharton, L.L.P., West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         David Myers appeals the district court's decision affirming the ruling of the workers' compensation commissioner finding his request for benefits was untimely. We find there is substantial evidence in the record to support the commissioner's determination Myers did not file a petition with the commissioner within two years after the discovery date of his cumulative back injury. We affirm the decision of the district court and the commissioner.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Myers became employed by R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co. in 1984. He was employed as a press operator until 2011, when he was moved to packing and handling because he could no longer perform the duties of a press operator. Myers developed back pain and sought medical treatment for his condition beginning in at least 1999. He had temporary work restrictions on and off from 2003. Myers testified he knew by 2009 his work was aggravating his back. Myers was unable to work for extended periods of time and received both long-term and short-term disability benefits from the employer. On November 20, 2012, Myers received permanent restrictions of no lifting more than forty pounds and no repetitive bending, lifting, and twisting. He was terminated from his employment because the employer could not accommodate his work restrictions.

         On April 2, 2013, Myers filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, claiming he had a cumulative back injury. The employer asserted Myers's claim was untimely under Iowa Code section 85.26(1) (2013), which requires a claim to be "commenced within two years from the date of the occurrence of the injury for which benefits are claimed."

          An administrative hearing was held on June 16, 2014. A deputy workers' compensation commissioner determined Myers's injury date was February 25, 2009, when Dr. Randy Shelerud diagnosed Myers with "disabling mechanical back and bilateral buttock pain, " and referred him for surgical consultation. Myers was placed on work restrictions for six months at that time. The deputy found the manifestation date for his injury was March 3, 2011, when Dr. Jeffrey Nasstrom, his family physician, noted Myers had been developing increasing back pain and Myers stated his work was intolerable. The deputy concluded Myers knew the nature, seriousness, and probable compensable character of his injury no later than March 3, 2011. Because Myers's claim was filed more than two years after this date, the deputy concluded the claim was untimely under section 85.26(1).

         Myers appealed to the workers' compensation commissioner. The commissioner agreed Myers's injury date was February 25, 2009. The commissioner determined the applicable date under the discovery rule was February 21, 2011, when Dr. Nasstrom evaluated Myers, resulting in a letter stating, "Unfortunately, he has been developing increasing back pain with radicular symptoms. He notes it has been increasingly intolerable to work at this time." The commissioner also noted Myers had received extensive medical treatment for his back from 2006 through February 2011 and he had received substantial amounts of short-term disability benefits in 2009. The commissioner concluded Myers's claim was untimely and he was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

         Myers filed a petition for judicial review. The district court found:

The record in this case supports that Myers has had issues with his back since as early as 1999; has had extensive medical treatment for his back; and has had numerous periods off work and on short term disability due to his back condition. There is substantial evidence in this record that Myers knew or should have known the seriousness of his condition at least by February 21, 2011. In addition, there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's conclusion that Myers should have known the compensable nature of his injury by that date as well. It is clear from the record that Myers's back condition was worsened by his employment as evidenced by the restrictions placed on him over the years as well as his own testimony that his employer knew he was off because of his back "and they [Donnelley] knew that my tasks at work aggravated my back." The time period referenced in this question ...

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