from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David N. May,
claimant appeals the denial of two claims, and his former
employer and its insurer appeal from a district court remand
to the commissioner of one claim.
J. Flaming of Hoefer Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Iowa City, for
W. Bryan of Andersen & Associates, West Des Moines, for
appellees Revstone Casting Industries, L.L.C. and Travelers
Indemnity Co. of CT.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Jonathan D. Bergman,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee Second Injury Fund
by Danison, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Mancilla Ruiz appeals from the Workers' Compensation
decisions that he (1) did not give proper notice to his
employer about a cumulative injury alleged to have arisen in
the course of employment and (2) did not meet his burden to
prove a hearing-loss injury arose out of or in the course of
his employment. The former employer, Revstone Casting
Industries, L.L.C., and its insurer (collectively, Revstone)
cross-appeal contending the district court erred in remanding
claimant's back-injury claim to the commissioner.
Background Facts and Proceedings
was born September 17, 1955. He is married to Laura Esquivel,
but they have no children together. Ruiz was educated through
the fifth grade in Mexico and received no further schooling.
An interpreter was provided to Ruiz for his hearing before
the deputy commissioner, and Ruiz stated he is unable to read
English. The record details jobs Ruiz performed
before working for Revstone. These include cement work,
making wooden pallets, and picking fruit.
began working at Revstone in 1988. At Revstone, Ruiz was a
grinder for about twenty-five years. Ruiz testified he worked ten
to twelve hour shifts seven days a week. As a grinder, Ruiz
would hold small parts in his fingers or with a clamp and
grind them on a machine. The average part weighed about two
pounds. Ruiz would twist to pick the part up from a box on
the right side of the workstation, grind the part, and twist
to place the finished part in a box on his left.
testified he knew he was required to report injuries related
to work to his foreman at Revstone. The Mill Room New
Hire/Transfer Safety List form signed by Ruiz indicates Ruiz
reviewed and understood several topics, including
"Reporting of incidents." The deputy commissioner
found that between 1996 and 2003, Ruiz "reported several
work-related injuries to [Revstone]." On an OSHA
questionnaire Ruiz completed on February 21, 2010, he marked
that he had no hearing or hand problems, or back injuries.
Ruiz testified for the hand injuries he "told them [he]
was feeling bad, [made] an appointment with the doctor . . .
and [asked] for that time off." Ruiz testified that
Revstone workers injured in the course of employment were
sent to the Fairfield Clinic. Ruiz testified he never
specifically told a foreman his hands and back hurt or that
he thought the hand pain was work-related. Mike Cline and
Josh Baker, were supervisor and leadman to Ruiz at the time
of his retirement. Both signed statements saying Ruiz did not
report any injuries.
testified he began to feel he had a right to
"something" from his injuries after he was
prescribed his hearing aids. He testified he had run out of
money, was deaf, and was losing function of his foot, hand,
and back, and thought he "[had] the right to
began to have problems with his hands sometime between 2005
and 2007. Ruiz saw Drs. Larson and Hunter at the Fairfield
Clinic, and was referred to another doctor who told Ruiz he
was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
times, doctors recommended splints, injections, and surgery
for Ruiz's hand and wrist pain, which he refused. Ruiz
testified no doctor said his work at Revstone was causing the
problems with his hands. He also testified he told his
supervisors his hands hurt and asked for permission to leave,
but he made his doctor appointments on his own. Ruiz cannot
open jars at times and must request help from his wife.
also stated the entire Revstone plant was loud, with noise
from multiple areas accumulating into a general noise. Ruiz
stated he always wore earplugs at the plant, but that he
received no written instructions on their use. Ruiz testified
he never noticed his hearing getting worse, but his hearing
was tested annually. Ruiz also stated he had no memory of
getting anything in writing saying that his hearing was
getting worse, although nothing was provided to him in
Spanish. Ruiz stated he realized he may have work-related
hearing loss following his fall from a ladder in July 2012.
Ruiz stated the examining doctor indicated his deafness was
from years of noise exposure at work. Ruiz was prescribed
hearing aids on his referral to a hearing specialist in
Ottumwa. The specialist stated it was likely that Ruiz
"had been deaf for a long time."
testified his back pain began around 2005. He saw Drs. Larson
and Hunter at the Fairfield Clinic and was again referred to
specialists in Ottumwa. An injection was recommended for the
back pain, but Ruiz refused. An MRI showed what Ruiz called
"rheumatism." Ruiz testified no doctor said his
work at Revstone was causing the problems with his back. He
also testified he has trouble holding anything weighing more
than a gallon of milk and must sleep sitting up because of
the back pain.
testified that he retired from Revstone because of the pain
in his foot, hands, and back. He has not and does not plan to
look for work in the future. Ruiz testified that upon his
retirement in 2011 he told Revstone he "couldn't
take [his] foot anymore and that [he] was going to
Texas." Immediately following his retirement, Ruiz and
his wife moved to Texas to care for property in that state
but came back to the Fairfield area in 2012.
saw Dr. Hunter at the Fairfield Clinic with pain in his right
hand on December 11, 2008. At a follow-up on January 9, 2009,
records show Ruiz said the pain is worse when he goes to
work, and that he would try to be careful at work. On
February 3, 2009, Ruiz reported his hand was feeling much
better. Ruiz saw Dr. Larson at the Fairfield Clinic for hand
pain on February 17, 2010. Dr. Larson suspected carpal tunnel
would be the diagnosis but acknowledged that the previously
diagnosed peripheral neuropathy could be affecting the hands.
In a questionnaire dated December 10, 2013, Dr. Larson stated
Ruiz's work at Revstone was a contributing factor to his
back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.
of the spine was completed by Dr. Michael Pogel on February
22, 2010. The MRI showed a number of disc bulges. Dr. Pogel
also performed an EMG and nerve conduction velocity test on
April 20, 2010. The results showed results for mild carpal
tunnel in both hands, with significant weakness in the hands.
Dr. Pogel also suspects some arthritis in the hands. Ruiz was
recommended to wear wrist splints and do exercises.
saw Dr. Suren Ravuri following his return to Iowa from Texas
in 2012. In the records provided, Ruiz reported nothing
related to carpal tunnel, hearing loss, or back pain. Ruiz
did report some hip pain on June 18, 2012, but nothing
appears in these records to tie that to back pain. It appears
that he generally saw Dr. Ravuri for diabetes issues.
at home in July 2012, Ruiz fell from a ladder and broke his
elbow and right knee, fractured his jaw and other facial
bones, and lost some teeth.Ruiz's testimony changed over
time regarding why he was on the ladder. In depositions he
stated he was clearing a window where birds entered the home,
but he also testified to both scraping and painting his home
and garage. The emergency room report shows no mention of a
history of carpal tunnel, hearing loss, or back injury. While
in the hospital, a social worker helped Esquivel's son
fill out a "Disability Report-Adult" for Ruiz. Ruiz
could not remember whether or not he was asked about any
other illnesses or injuries besides those resulting from his
fall. In the report, Ruiz alleged he was unable to work as of
September 10, 2011, and that Ruiz quit his job due to leg
underwent hearing tests on August 2, 2012. Audiologist Lisa
Still stated Ruiz had hearing loss for years and noted his
work in a foundry with excessive noise. Ruiz also saw Dr.
Graham at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics that same
day, with Dr. Graham relaying reports of a loud work
environment and years of hearing loss conveyed by Ruiz and
his wife. Ruiz saw Dr. Hussain Banu on October 12, 2012, and
reported pain, tingling, and weakness in his hands. ...