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Huff v. Crst Expedited, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

RICHARD HUFF, Petitioner-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Arthur E. Gamble, Judge.

         Petitioners appeal the district court's ruling reversing and remanding the decision of the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission.

          Chris Scheldrup of Scheldrup Blades Schrock Smith PC, Cedar Rapids, and Jason P. Wiltfang of Corridor Law Group, Cedar Rapids, for appellants.

          R. Saffin Parrish-Sams of Soldat & Parrish-Sams, PLC, West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*] Gamble, S.J. takes no part.

          VOGEL, Chief Judge.

         CRST Expedited, Inc. and AIG Insurance Co. (collectively, CRST) appeal the ruling by the district court reversing and remanding Richard Huff's alternate-care decision of the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission. CRST asserts the court erred in finding medical evidence is not required for an award of alternate care under Iowa Code section 85.27 (2017). It further asserts Huff is not entitled to the specific appliances and services he seeks. We agree with the district court that the lack of medical evidence is not a bright-line bar to an award of alternate-medical-care benefits. However, the court's determination that the specific appliances and services Huff requests are available to him relies on factual findings that must be made by the agency. Because the agency used the wrong legal standard, the case must be remanded for the agency to make factual determinations, notwithstanding the lack of medical evidence to support his requests. Therefore, we affirm the district court in part and reverse in part, and we remand to the agency.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Richard Huff began working for CRST as an over-the-road truck driver in 2014. According to his testimony, he did not have a fixed home or a personal vehicle while he worked for CRST because the mortgage on his home had been foreclosed and he had given his vehicle to his son. To save on expenses, he lived out of his truck and used his truck or a taxicab for personal transportation. On April 24, 2016, he was involved in a trucking accident.[1] His application for alternate medical care states he sustained numerous injuries in the accident, "including a crush injury to his right leg, causing him to remain wheelchair dependent and homebound." When he was discharged from the hospital on July 12, he testified he lived with his son in Georgia in a second-floor apartment for college students.

         On May 25, 2017, Huff filed his first application for alternate care. His application requested: "1) a handicap accessible/ADA compliant living arrangement near [his surgeon in Georgia]; 2) a handicap van or alternative means of transportation for any and all reasonable purposes; and 3) a home healthcare provider and/or in-home and community-based ADL [(activities-of-daily-living)] assistance." He submitted certain records to support his application, including a "Comprehensive Adult Assessment," dated July 29, 2016, which evaluated his abilities to perform activities of daily life and was signed by a registered nurse.

         On June 9, 2017, the parties participated in a telephone hearing before the agency. According to Huff's testimony, he typically uses a wheelchair to move short distances. He can walk with crutches for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, but he has "been falling a lot lately" with crutches. He has lived alone in the apartment since December when his son moved out, and he expects to be evicted soon. He has difficulty performing many daily activities due to his injury, including bathing, cooking, and cleaning. He usually pays for a taxicab when he needs transportation.

         On June 12, the agency issued its first alternate-medical-care decision. Finding "none of Huff's current medical providers have opined that Huff needs an accessible apartment, accessible van, or home health aide services at this time," the agency concluded Huff failed to meet his burden of proof and denied his application. Huff applied for rehearing, which the agency denied.

         On July 21, Huff filed a second, nearly identical application for alternate medical care, again requesting housing, transportation, and in-home assistance.[2]Huff submitted the evidence and a transcript from the first proceeding, and he submitted an "Assessment" for activities of daily living, dated June 22, 2017, from the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia-Area Agency on Aging (GRCG- AAA) describing Huff's needs.[3] He did not testify again, though his attorney stated at the August 3 hearing Huff had been evicted from his apartment and was now difficult to contact.

         On August 4, the agency issued its second alternate-medical-care decision, ...

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