from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rustin T.
Brinck appeals the dismissal of his petition for judicial
review affirming the Workers' Compensation
Commissioner's denial of his petition to review-reopen a
S. Soldat of Soldat & Parrish-Sams, PLC, West Des Moines,
Kathleen Roe of Rawlings, Ellwanger, Mohrhauser, Nelson &
Roe, LLP, Sioux City, for appellees.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
the Workers' Compensation Commissioner denied Dr. Ronald
Brinck's petition to reopen his prior workers'
compensation settlement agreement with his former employer,
Brinck filed a petition for judicial review in district court
challenging the denial. The district court affirmed the
commissioner's determination that Brinck failed to
establish his mental disorder was caused by his earlier work
injury, finding substantial evidence supported the
commissioner's decision. The district court also affirmed
the commission's conclusion that, even if Brinck had
demonstrated his psychosis was related to his earlier work
injury, Brinck's claim was barred by res judicata. Brinck
now appeals the district court's denial of his petition
for judicial review. Upon our review, we affirm.
speaking, after an employee is awarded workers'
compensation benefits for an injury sustained at work, the
case is closed, whether the award came at the end of
exhausting administrative remedies or by way of a settlement
agreement. See generally Kohlhaas v. Hog Slat, Inc.,
777 N.W.2d 387, 391-93 (Iowa 2009) (discussing workers'
compensation review-reopening proceedings); U.S. W.
Commc'ns., Inc. v. Overholser, 566 N.W.2d 873, 875
(Iowa 1997) (same). However, if the employee's condition
changes after the award or settlement related to the prior
injury, such as "the worsening of a physical condition
or a reduction in earning capacity," the employee may
seek additional or increased compensation from the employer
by way of a review-reopening proceeding under Iowa Code
section 86.14(2) (2011). See Kohlhaas, 777 N.W.2d at
391-93. At such proceeding, the employee must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the employee's current
condition is "proximately caused by the original
injury." Id. at 392.
to satisfy this proximate-cause requirement is for the
employee to demonstrate his or her physical condition has
worsened. See id. Nevertheless, this is not the only
way to establish that the employee's current condition is
"proximately caused by the original injury."
Id. Importantly, the employee "need not prove,
as an element of his claim, that the current extent of
disability was not contemplated by the commissioner (in the
arbitration award) or the parties (in their agreement for
settlement)." Id. Thus, the employee does not
have "to demonstrate his current condition was not
contemplated at the time of the original settlement."
See id. at 393. However, "section 86.14(2) does
not provide an opportunity to relitigate causation issues
that were determined in the initial award or settlement
agreement." Id. "[T]he principles of res
judicata still apply." Id. Thus, the
commissioner, in a review-reopening proceeding, "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. (emphasis added).
Background Facts and Proceedings.
2009, Dr. Ronald Brinck "sustained an injury arising out
of and in the course of his employment" with Siouxland
Mental Health Center ("the Center").He filed a
petition seeking workers' compensation for the injury,
which stated: "While walking down the [Center's]
hallway, his cane became stuck in the carpet and he tripped
and fell forward, thereby hitting his head at the right side
of the door." The petition stated Brinck's
"whole body" was affected or disabled. The expenses
incurred that were listed on the petition included the
psychological services of a hospital. Brinck returned to work
full-time in February 2010.
November 2012, Siouxland and Brinck subsequently entered into
a settlement agreement for workers' compensation benefits
that was approved by the workers' compensation
commissioner. The agreement stated Brinck sustained a
"permanent partial disability for 50% loss of
BAW/earning capacity . . . resulting in 250 weeks of
compensation under Iowa Code section 85.34(2)(U) payable
commencing February 15, 2010." The agreement stated
Brinck "is entitled to medical care for the injury,
including care in the future," citing sections 85.26(2)
and 85.27. The agreement further provided that evidence
corroborating "this settlement is attached."
Attached thereto were numerous hospital records, including
the November 2010 report of Dr. Douglas Martin. Dr.
Martin's report included his review of another medical
professional's May 2009 report following that
doctor's neuropsychological assessment of Brinck. Dr.
Martin's report stated:
We spent a considerable amount of time . . . reviewing the
Neurological Assessment of Dr. Meyers, which is a rather
interesting report, from the standpoint that Dr. Meyers was
unable to specifically identify a pattern consistent with a
closed head injury or postconcussion situation. He suggested
that sleep apnea, seizures and depression may be interference
with that; however, upon my review, it is also just as likely
that seizure disorders and emotional and behavioral
disturbances can also be created by traumatic brain injuries,
so it is a bit difficult to interpret. It is certainly a
possibility that this gentleman had a substantial issue with
preexisting depression and that may also be clouding the
picture here, with respect to the situation. However, I
cannot dismiss Dr. Meyers' conclusions that, based upon
his Neurological testing and data, the pattern and score was,
indeed, unusual. There seemed to be some inconsistency in
performance as to what would be expected. However, I would
also state that it might be true here that, with respect to a
significantly high level I.Q. functioning individual prior to
the incident, often times professional show sometimes bizarre
findings on Neuropsychological profiles that are performed
after incidents such as this.
After a review of the clinical data and my interview with Dr.
Brinck, I felt that his situation was consistent with mild
cognitive residuals from a closed head injury/traumatic brain
(1) History of closed head injury/traumatic brain incident