from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Eliza J. Ovrom,
Linares appeals the district court order affirming the final
agency decision denying his review-reopen petition.
C. Byrne of Neifert, Byrne & Ozga, P.C., West Des Moines,
Timothy A. Clausen of Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., Sioux City, for
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
Linares was awarded two-hundred weeks of permanent partial
disability benefits after the workers' compensation
commissioner found that he sustained a forty-percent
industrial disability when he was injured while working at
Tyson Fresh Meats (Tyson) in June 2009. In 2013, Linares
filed a review-reopening petition, alleging that he sustained
an increased loss of earning capacity after he was awarded
benefits. Following a hearing, the deputy commissioner found
that Linares failed his burden of proving an increased loss
of earning capacity and denied his petition. The commissioner
affirmed the deputy commissioner's decision, and Linares
petitioned for judicial review in the district court. He
appeals the district court order affirming the final agency
decision, arguing the agency misinterpreted the law governing
scope of review is for correction of errors at law.
See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. In reviewing the district
court's decision on judicial review, we apply the
standards of Iowa Code chapter 17A to determine whether the
conclusions we reach are the same as the conclusions of the
district court. See Neal v. Annett Holdings, Inc.,
814 N.W.2d 512, 518 (Iowa 2012). If they are, we affirm; if
not, we reverse. See id.
award of workers' compensation benefits "may be
reviewed upon commencement of reopening proceedings by the
employer or the employee within three years from the date of
the last payment of weekly benefits made under the award or
agreement." Iowa Code § 85.26(2) (2013). The
question is whether the condition of the employee warrants a
change of compensation. See id. § 86.14(2).
Linares's benefits may be increased if he has proved by a
preponderance of the evidence that he "suffered an
impairment or lessening of earning capacity" after he
was originally awarded benefits. Simonson v. Snap-On
Tools Corp., 588 N.W.2d 430, 434 (Iowa 1999). Linares is
not required to show a change in physical condition, only
that his earning capacity had decreased. See id. In
addition, Linares must prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the decrease in his earning capacity was
"proximately caused by the original injury."
Kohlhaas v. Hog Slat, Inc., 777 N.W.2d 387, 392
(Iowa 2009) (quoting Simonson, 588 N.W.2d at 434.
claims his economic condition decreased because the permanent
restrictions imposed as a result of his work injury prevented
him from continuing to perform the work duties of the
position he held before the injury, resulting in his transfer
to a lower-paying position at Tyson after his benefits were
awarded. Linares argues the workers' compensation
commissioner incorrectly applied the law in affirming the
deputy commissioner's decision because his industrial
disability rating was calculated based on the assumption his
earnings would not be reduced.
arbitration decision discussed the following factors, which
led to the determination that Linares had sustained a
forty-percent loss of earning capacity:
[Linares]'s medical condition before the work injury was
fairly good except for some prior flare-ups in the left
shoulder and low back. He was able fully perform the physical
tasks in his repetitive work. While [Linares] has returned to
his job, it is quite apparent the repetitive work is really
not suitable for him as it is likely he will continue to have
problems if he continues such work as noted by Dr. McGuire.
However, [Linares] needs to work and will likely continue
this work until he can no longer tolerate it. He is now
looking for other jobs at Tyson. [Linares] remains at work
without permanent loss of wages as a result of his injuries.
[Linares] is 42 years old. He has very limited education.
Given his language problems, age, and limited education, he
has little potential for retraining into a more skilled
lighter duty job. His restrictions, which prohibit heavy work
and difficulty with repetitive work, will severely limit
those limited jobs open to non-English speaking immigrants.
review-reopening decision, the deputy commissioner rejected
Linares's claim that the change in his position at Tyson
due to his work restrictions reduced his earning capacity.
The deputy commissioner noted that the permanent restrictions
were known to the parties at the time of the arbitration
hearing and "[t]he deputy clearly considered the impact
of these restrictions upon claimant's ability to engage
in the labor market generally, as well as his ability to
remain in [his prior] position indefinitely." The
commissioner affirmed the decision. In Kohlhaas, our
supreme court clarified that claimants in review-reopening
actions need not demonstrate that their current condition was
not contemplated at the time of the original settlement. 777
N.W.2d at 393. However, the court emphasized that the
principles of res judicata still apply and, accordingly,
"the agency, in a review-reopening petition, should not
reevaluate an employee's level of physical impairment or
earning capacity if all of the facts and circumstances were
known or knowable at the time of the original action."
Id. In denying Linares's petition for judicial
review, the district ...