from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott,
Dubinovic appeals the district court judicial review decision
affirming the final agency action of the workers'
S. Soldat of Soldat & Parrish-Sams, PLC, West Des Moines,
L. Clark of Hopkins & Huebner, PC, Des Moines, for
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Tabor, J., takes no part.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Dubinovic sustained a mental injury while employed as a
custodian by the Des Moines Public Schools. Dubinovic filed a
workers' compensation petition, claiming,
"Cumulatively and progressively over a period of time
employer's actions and inactions caused the development
of an adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed
mood." Following an arbitration hearing, a deputy
workers' compensation commissioner denied the petition.
The workers' compensation commissioner affirmed the
decision, as did the district court on judicial review.
appeal, Dubinovic contends (1) the supreme court erred in
adopting a legal causation standard in cases involving a
purely mental injury, and the district court erred in
affirming the commissioner's application of the standard,
and (2) the commissioner should have applied a modified
standard applicable to mental injuries arising from sudden
Legal-Causation Standard/Application of Standard
Dunlavey v. Economy Fire & Casualty Co., 526
N.W.2d 845, 853-58 (Iowa 1995), the supreme court recognized
that a purely mental injury may be compensable under the
workers' compensation laws even in the absence of an
accompanying physical injury. The court required a claimant
to prove both factual causation and legal causation.
Id. at 853. According to the court, "[F]actual
causation means medical causation, that is whether the
employee's injury is causally connected to the
employee's employment." Id. Turning to
legal causation, the court stated, "[F]or an employee to
establish legal causation for a non-traumatic mental injury
caused only by mental stimuli, the employee must show that
the mental injury 'was caused by workplace stress of
greater magnitude than the day-to-day mental stresses
experienced by other workers employed in the same or similar
jobs,' regardless of their employer." Id.
at 857 (citation omitted).
asks the court to overrule the supreme court's holding in
Dunlavey. In his view, the court made a policy
choice to apply two causation standards where the injury is
purely mental despite the statutory reference to a
single-causation standard: whether the injury "arises
out of employment. He argues the choice of an appropriate
standard is one for the legislature rather than the judicial
branch. He further argues the policy choice was "clearly
erroneous" because it unduly heightened the
not at liberty to overrule controlling precedent. Bd. of
Water Works Trs. v. Sac Cty. Bd. of Supervisors, 890
N.W.2d 50, 57 (Iowa 2017) ("Revisiting our state law
precedent is our prerogative."); State v.
Eichler, 83 N.W.2d 576, 578 (Iowa 1957) ("If our
previous holdings are to be overruled, we should ordinarily
prefer to do it ourselves."). Accordingly, we decline
Dubinovic's invitation to revisit Dunlavey.
to Dubinovic's argument that the commissioner misapplied
the legal causation standard and the district court erred in
affirming the agency. The issue he raises is not one of law.
As the Iowa Supreme Court stated, "Although the standard
of legal causation involves an issue of law, the application
of that standard to a particular setting requires the
commissioner to render an outcome determinative finding of
fact. A court on judicial review is bound by that
fact-finding if it is supported by substantial
evidence." Asmus v. Waterloo Cmty. Sch. Dist,
722 N.W.2d 653, 657 (Iowa 2006).
deputy commissioner considered the testimony of three
witnesses who performed housekeeping duties for other
employers. The deputy found "no evidence that
claimant's work expectations were greater or unusual,
just that a quota of work to be done within a given time was
stressful but common to all such positions." The
deputy's findings, ...