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McDonald v. EZ Payroll & Staffing Solutions, LLC

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

RONALD N. McDONALD, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
EZ PAYROLL & STAFFING SOLUTIONS, LLC and ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY, Respondents-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Lars G. Anderson, Judge.

         Ronald N. McDonald appeals from the district court's judicial review ruling upholding the workers' compensation commissioner's denial of permanent disability benefits.

          Eric D. Tindal of Keegan Tindal & Mason, Iowa City, for appellant.

          Charles A. Blades of Smith Mills Schrock Blades Monthei, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellees.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., Bower, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DANILSON, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Ronald N. McDonald appeals from the district court's judicial review ruling upholding the workers' compensation commissioner's denial of permanent disability benefits. Because we find no abuse of discretion in the commissioner's evidentiary ruling and there is substantial evidence to support the commissioner's determination that McDonald had not proved causation, we affirm the district court in upholding the commissioner's findings.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On August 17, 2012, McDonald was hired by EZ Payroll[1] who assigned him to ALPLA, a plastic fabrication company. McDonald began working for ALPLA on August 20 where he was to clean molds used in the production of plastic bottles. This process used water to clean the molds and assure they were properly sealed together after they were cleaned. As part of this process McDonald also used pressurized air to blow debris and water out of the molds, leading McDonald to get misted water droplets in his face. During the same period, McDonald was also working at Proctor & Gamble, where he swept the floors, cleaned public areas, and mopped floors.

         On August 27, McDonald was injured at ALPLA while attempting to catch a large cutting blade that had fallen from its sheath. He need surgery, which was scheduled for August 31. However, on August 31, McDonald had a fever when he reported for surgery and surgery was rescheduled.

         On Monday, September 3, a neighbor looked in on McDonald and noticed he was ill and confused. McDonald was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City with a profoundly abnormal neurologic status. He was transferred to the intensive care unit where he underwent testing. McDonald was diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and a brain lesion that was thought to be secondary to Legionella. He also learned he was HIV positive. HIV did not make McDonald more susceptible to Legionnaires' disease but did increase the risk that if acquired the symptoms of the disease would be more severe. Dr. Jack Stapleton was McDonald's treating physician at UIHC.

         McDonald sought workers' compensation benefits, asserting his Legionnaire's disease arose out of and in the course of his employment with ALPLA. An arbitration hearing was originally set for March 12, 2015. However, McDonald filed an amendment to his claim on the day before the hearing, asserting an odd-lot claim. The deputy commissioner allowed the amendment and granted the employer's motion to continue hearing, which was rescheduled for June 16.

         McDonald submitted the opinion of Dr. Stapleton in support of his claim for workers' compensation: "It is my opinion that Mr. McDonald was exposed to the Legionella bacterium and contracted Legionella pneumonia during his work at ALPLA while spraying molds during the latter part of August 2012." In his deposition, Dr. Stapleton stated,

Based on the history and the epidemiology and given the exposure to mists-sprays and mists of water, water mist at his employment the week prior to his first fever and the Monday prior to his first fever on Friday before Labor Day, and then diagnosis on-ten days later, the epidemiology ...

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