KAREN H. SALTERN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
HNI CORPORATION and GALLAGHER BASSETT SERVICES, INC., Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, John D.
employee who brought a bad-faith claim against her employer
appeals the denial of her motion for partial summary judgment
and the grant of the employer's motion for summary
Anthony J. Bribriesco, Andrew W. Bribriesco, and William J.
Bribriesco, Bettendorf, for appellant.
M. Richards of Betty, Neuman & McMahon, P.L.C.,
Davenport, for appellees.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Greer, JJ.
years of repetitive sewing for a furniture manufacturer,
Karen Saltern developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and
asked her employer, HNI Corporation, to pay workers'
compensation. HNI and its third-party claims administrator,
Gallagher Bassett Services, disputed the injury rose out of
and in the course of her employment. Several years later,
they agreed to pay her claim, based on medical opinions the
carpal tunnel syndrome was a work-related injury.
sued HNI and Gallagher for bad faith in denying her claim. On
cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court
decided Saltern could not prove the first bad-faith
element-that the employer lacked a reasonable basis for
denying benefits. The court ruled HNI was entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.Saltern appeals that ruling.
Finding no legal error in the court's conclusions, we
affirm summary judgment dismissing Saltern's claims
Facts and Prior Proceedings
worked as a technical sewer for HNI at its furniture
manufacturing plant. HNI is self-insured and contracts with
Gallagher to administer its workers' compensation claims.
2009, Saltern suffered a work-related injury to her neck,
which HNI paid. In March 2011, Saltern saw a medical provider
complaining of pain, numbness, and weakness in her neck,
shoulder, and arms. Further testing led to the diagnosis of
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. HNI was unaware Saltern
went to these appointments until May, when Saltern requested
approval to see a pain specialist.
June, Saltern filed a new workers' compensation claim
alleging she experienced injuries on the job. That same
month, HNI-through Gallagher- asked Saltern to provide
information on her doctor visits. But after the employer made
many phone calls and propounded discovery requests, the
providers still had sent no medical records. HNI denied the
compensability of her claim in July 2011. But in a letter to
Saltern's counsel, HNI said it was continuing its
investigation, "including hopefully obtaining medical
records once we have learned from you with whom Ms. Saltern
has been treating."
September, Saltern saw a pain specialist who diagnosed her
with cervical radiculopathy resulting from the 2009 injury.
But the specialist concluded the carpal tunnel did not stem
from the same incident.
April 2012, Saltern voluntarily dismissed her claim. HNI
continued to seek proof of Saltern's injury, including
placing eight unanswered calls to her primary provider, Dr.
Calvin Atwell. Six months later, Saltern refiled her claim.
HNI again denied the claim in mid-October 2012. In her
testimony, Saltern acknowledged she was unaware of any