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Bahic v. Mercy Medical Center

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 20, 2018

MUNIRA BAHIC, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MERCY MEDICAL CENTER d/b/a BISHOP DRUMM and INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY OF NORTH AMERICA, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William P. Kelly, Judge.

         The claimant appeals from the district court's judgment affirming the commissioner's determination the employee's stipulated work injury did not cause her ongoing disability and symptoms after a specific date.

          Nicholas W. Platt of Platt Law Firm, P.C., Urbandale, for appellant.

          Kent M. Smith of Scheldrup Blades Schrock Smith P.C., West Des Moines, for appellees.

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

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         Munira Bahic appeals from the district court's judgment affirming the commissioner's determination that Bahic's stipulated work injury did not cause her ongoing disability and symptoms after the date of February 27, 2014. On appeal, Bahic claims the district court erred in its determination that substantial evidence supports the commissioner's ruling. Additionally, she claims the court was wrong to conclude the commissioner's reversal of the deputy's causation ruling was not irrational, illogical, or wholly unjustifiable.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Concluions.

         Bahic was born in 1959 in Bosnia. There, she completed her education through the eighth grade. She later lived in Germany with her family and worked outside of the home cleaning offices a few hours each week. After coming to the United States, Bahic began working in January 2001 for the employer, Mercy Medical Center-which was doing business as a residential care facility under the name Bishop Drumm. Through the employer, she took approximately two semesters of classes in English as a second language. She testified she was able to communicate verbally in English at work but was unable to write well in English. Bahic utilized an interpreter for her medical appointments as well as throughout the legal process.

          In 2013, Bahic was working full-time as a prep cook. As part of her job requirements, Bahic would prepare food, load food and drink onto a cart, and then deliver those items to people within the facility. When loaded, the cart held the supplies for approximately 160 people. According to Mercy's description of the position of prep cook, the work required "constant" standing, lifting, and walking; "frequent" crouching, stooping, pulling, and pushing; and "occasional" climbing, kneeling, and lifting. Additionally, the "physical demand requirements" state, in part, "Heavy work: Exerting up to 65 pounds push/pull force occasionally, lifting up to 50 lbs. occasionally, lifting up to 40 lbs. frequently."

         On February 11, 2013, Bahic suffered an injury at work when pushing a full cart to her first stop of the day. Bahic had to lift the back of the cart and twist it in order to maneuver around a corner. When she did so, she felt a sharp stabbing pain in her lower back. Bahic reported the injury to a coworker on the day it occurred and a supervisor the next day. She continued to perform her job until approximately two months later, when a supervisor noticed Bahic was unable to put her weight on one foot and was limping. The employer then arranged for Bahic to be seen by a medical professional at Mercy Clinics; Bahic reported experiencing ongoing back pain radiating down her right leg. She was given work restrictions and began working in a less physically-demanding position in the laundry room.

         In October 2013, Mercy terminated Bahic's employment. The letter informed Bahic her termination did "not change [her] ability to receive Workman's Compensation benefits and treatment, if still under restrictions or treatment"- which she was. Additionally, she was advised she was eligible for rehire "if you are released to return to work either without restrictions or to a position that meets your current restrictions."

         Bahic continued to treat with a number of medical providers.

         At the employer's request, Bahic saw Dr. David Boarini in February 2014 for an independent medical examination. In the resulting letter, sent February 27, 2014, Dr. Boarini opined:

Upon examination, this is a normally developed woman. The examination was essentially impossible because of obvious pain exaggeration and symptom magnification. Testing was inconsistent, breakaway and clearly non physiologic. Straight leg raising was impossible to evaluate, once again because of massive symptom exaggeration. The patient complained of numbness in the entire right leg which was non physiologic. She split the midline to tuning fork testing which is a clear sign of malingering. Reflexes were symmetric and physiologic.
I reviewed the patient's MRI scan and she has some degenerative changes mainly at L4-L5 with a small disc ...

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