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Lynch Livestock, Inc. v. Bursell

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

LYNCH LIVESTOCK, INC. and NATIONWIDE AGRIBUSINESS INS. CO., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
KENNETH BURSELL, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D. Rosenberg, Judge.

         Lynch Livestock appeals a district court order affirming final agency action in a workers' compensation proceeding. REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

          Jeffrey W. Lanz of Huber, Book, Lanz, McConkey & Finch, P.L.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Robert M. Livingston and Rick D. Crowl of Stuart Tinley Law Firm LLP, Council Bluffs, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          McDONALD, JUDGE.

         This appeal arises out of a drawn-out workers' compensation proceeding. Lynch Livestock appeals from the order of the district court affirming the agency's decision that Lynch Livestock should pay certain medical expenses incurred by Kenneth Bursell for treatment of a work-related injury. On appeal, Lynch Livestock contends it was error for the agency to order Lynch Livestock to pay for the medical expenses.

         I.

         To fully address the issue of whether Lynch Livestock should have to pay the challenged medical expenses, some background is necessary. This is the second time the parties have been before this court regarding Bursell's workers' compensation claim. In the first appeal, this court reviewed an alternate-medical-care decision. See Lynch Livestock, Inc. v. Bursell, No. 14-1133, 2015 WL 2394143, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. May 20, 2015). Our prior opinion recited the relevant facts and procedural posture as follows:

In December 2008, Bursell sustained a sprained left ankle while employed with Lynch Livestock, Inc. The employer accepted the compensability of injury and paid for the care Bursell selected. Bursell underwent two tarsal tunnel decompressions to alleviate the pain, one in January and one in July 2009. When the pain in Bursell's ankle did not resolve, he was referred to John E. Cook, M.D., medical director of Siouxland Surgery Center Pain Clinic. The employer accepted the referral to Dr. Cook and paid for the treatment provided, including injections to control pain. Bursell was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, and Dr. Cook recommended he undergo a laparoscopic lumbar sympathectomy for long-term relief and resolution of his pain, referring him to Dr. Kelly, a vascular surgeon. On February 11, 2010, Dr. Patrick Kelly, M.D., recommended conservative treatment, opining a lumbar sympathectomy would be a "last ditch effort/option." The employer had Bursell evaluated by other physicians who concluded Bursell does not have complex regional pain syndrome and would not benefit from the sympathectomy. Instead, these physicians recommended conservative treatment including physical therapy and psychiatric referrals.
When the employer did not authorize the sympathectomy, Bursell filed an application for alternate medical care on April 7, 2010. The matter came before the deputy workers' compensation commissioner on April 19, 2010. In granting the alternate care, the deputy commissioner concluded Dr. Cook's opinion recommending the surgery was "reasonable and necessary." The deputy commissioner ordered the employer to "provide and pay for the surgery recommended by Dr. Cook including any referrals he makes and any medication he prescribes to treat [Bursell's] work injury."
The employer filed a petition for judicial review with the district court on June 16, 2010. After holding oral arguments, the district court issued its decision on June 16, 2014, reversing the agency's decision to grant the treatment recommended by Dr. Cook. The district [court] concluded the agency failed to apply the correct legal test to Bursell's alternate care request as the agency failed to decide whether the care authorized by the employer was "unreasonable." The district court found the agency's decision wholly unjustified and reversed the agency's order.

Id. (footnote omitted).

         In our prior opinion, we affirmed the district court's judicial-review decision but remanded the case to the district court for remand to the agency to apply the correct legal standard to the petition for alternate medical care. See id. at *4. In our prior opinion, we also noted the ...


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