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Orris v. College Community School District

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 10, 2018

APRIL DENISE ORRIS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
COLLEGE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT and EMC INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondents-Appellees.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Mitchell E. Turner, Judge.

         April Orris appeals a district court ruling on her petition for judicial review of a determination of the workers' compensation commissioner.

          Thomas M. Wertz of Wertz, Dake & Anderson, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         April Orris appeals a district court ruling on her petition for judicial review of a determination of the workers' compensation commissioner. She contends the district court erred in finding substantial evidence supported the commissioner's rejection of an uncontroverted expert opinion regarding the causation of her worsened condition.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In May 2005, Orris was injured in the course of her employment with College Community School District (CCSD). Coll. Cmty. Sch. Dist. v. Orris, No. 11-1848, 2012 WL 2407558, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 27, 2012), further review denied (Aug. 21, 2012). In 2008, Orris filed a workers' compensation claim against CCSD and its workers' compensation insurance carrier, EMC Insurance Company. See id. at *2. Following agency and judicial-review proceedings, this court affirmed (1) the agency's initial arbitration determination that, among other things, "Orris suffered from fibromyalgia aggravated by the work injury, as well as chronic pain" and (2) the resulting award of "permanent partial disability benefits equal to thirty-percent industrial disability." Id. at *2-4.

         In December 2013, Orris filed a review-reopening petition seeking an increase of her award. See Iowa Code § 86.14(2) (2013). She contended her fibromyalgia condition had substantially worsened since the 2009 arbitration hearing and her award should therefore be increased. Following hearing, the deputy commissioner concluded Orris proved "by a preponderance of the evidence that her fibromyalgia condition or symptoms have substantially changed and worsened since the 2009 arbitration hearing." However, the deputy commissioner went on to conclude Orris "failed to prove that her increase or exacerbation of fibromyalgia symptoms is causally related to her initial work injury in May 2005." The deputy commissioner therefore denied Orris's request for an increase in benefits. On appeal, the commissioner affirmed the deputy commissioner's ruling in its entirety.

         Orris filed a petition for judicial review of the agency decision. The district court ultimately affirmed the agency determination, concluding:

It was appropriate for [the agency] to find that Ms. Orris failed in her burden to prove that the worsening of her fibromyalgia symptoms was causally related to her 2005 injury. The Court has reviewed the entire record and concludes that the final agency action in this matter is sufficiently stated and supported by substantial evidence in the record and should not be disturbed on judicial review.

         As noted, Orris appeals.

         II. ...


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