from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen Romano,
trucking company appeals the district court's grant of
class certification to injured drivers.
L. Monthei of Smith Mills Schrock Blades Monthei, P.C., Cedar
Rapids, for appellant.
Matthew R. Denning, Christopher D. Spaulding, and Nicholas L.
Shaull of Spaulding, Berg & Schmidt, P.L.C., Des Moines,
by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ. Gamble, S.J.,
takes no part.
district court certified a class action involving dozens of
truck drivers who allege their employer violated their rights
under the workers' compensation act. The trucking company
appeals. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the class
Facts and Prior Proceedings.
work-related injury suffered by Anthony Roland planted the
seed for this class action. In October 2013, Roland started
work for Annette Holdings, LLC as an over-the-road truck driver.
Roland lived in Oxford, Alabama, 897 miles away from Annett
Holdings's headquarters in Des Moines. Annett Holdings
requires all of its drivers, as a condition of their
employment, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The
[A]s a condition of your employment with [Annett Holdings],
you acknowledge and agree that [Annett Holdings] may require
you to temporarily relocate to Des Moines, Iowa, for modified
duty work in the event you suffer a work injury. Iowa Law
allows Annett Holdings to suspend workers' compensation
benefits to an injured worker if an injured worker fails to
accept and work in the modified duty position offered by
Annett Holdings . . . .
. . . .
Because drivers agree to be away from home as an essential
function and an agreed upon term of their employment with
Annett Holdings, injured workers are expected to temporarily
relocate and perform their modified duty work in Des Moines,
Iowa, irrespective of your state of residence. The temporary
relocation will include staying away from your home for up to
two weeks at a time. By accepting employment with [Annett
Holdings], you acknowledge there is nothing you are aware of
which would prevent you from temporarily relocating to Des
Moines, Iowa for up to two weeks at a time to perform
modified duty work assignments in the event you suffer a work
less than a year on the job, Roland injured his elbow while
working in Indiana. Consistent with the MOU, after
preliminary treatment in Indiana, Annett Holdings assigned
Roland to the modified-duty program in Des Moines. The
company transferred Roland's medical care to Des Moines
to accommodate the modified-duty work program. Dissatisfied
with the medical care he was receiving in Des Moines, Roland
asked Annett Holdings to authorize treatment by an orthopedic
surgeon in Alabama. Annett Holdings agreed. In May 2014,
after undergoing elbow surgery in Alabama, Annett Holdings
again assigned Roland to modified-duty work. The company
again compelled him to relocate to Des Moines and to forgo
follow-up care in Alabama.
2014, Roland petitioned the Iowa Workers' Compensation
Commission seeking alternate medical care in Alabama instead
of Des Moines. The deputy commissioner concluded the MOU
functionally deprived Roland of reasonable medical care. In
granting Roland's petition, the commissioner explained:
The agreement signed by Roland is contrary to the law and
case law of Iowa because it attempts to use an agreement to
relieve the employer from part of its liability to provide
reasonably suited treatment for the injury without undue
inconvenience to the employee under [c]hapter 85. The
agreement appears to be an attempt to either avoid or
eliminate both the "reasonable" and "undue
inconvenience" clauses in Iowa Code section 85.27(4).
Holdings sought judicial review and the district court
Holdings then appealed, and our court affirmed, finding
substantial evidence supported the agency's conclusion
the MOU, as applied to Roland, violated Iowa Code section
85.18 (2013). Annett Holdings, Inc. v. Roland, No.
15-0043, 2016 WL 541265, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 10, 2016).
than a week after our decision, Roland sued Annett Holdings
on behalf of himself and others similarly situated. He cited
the company's continued attempts to compel him to travel
to Des Moines for the light-duty work program despite
judicial direction otherwise. Roland alleged Annett Holdings
acted in bad faith and violated his statutory rights and
those of similarly situated employees. Roland sought
compensatory and punitive damages. Roland's petition asked
the district court to certify the matter as a class action.
district court held a hearing on the class certification in
April 2018. At the hearing, Roland's attorney explained
that following a discovery conference, counsel for Annett
Holdings stipulated the prospective class consisted of more
than forty drivers who signed the same MOU. All the drivers
had workers' compensation claims and were compelled to
travel to Des Moines for the light-duty work program. Despite
the company's stipulation to the prospective class
membership, Annett Holdings resisted the motion to compel and
moved to decertify the class action.
May 2018 order, the district court decided Roland and the
other drivers met the requirements for class certification.
Annett Holdings timely appealed the court's certification
of the class. Our supreme court granted a stay of the
district court's proceedings until conclusion of this
Scope and ...