Gully v. Liguria Foods, Inc., 020721 IAWC, 5063429

Docket Nº5063429
Case DateFebruary 07, 2021
CourtIowa
HELEN GULLY, Claimant
v.
LIGURIA FOODS, INC., Employer,
and,
EMPLOYERS PREFERRED INSURANCE COMPANY, Insurance Carrier, Defendants.
No. 5063429
Iowa Workers Compensation
Before the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner
February 7, 2021
         Head Note Nos.: 1803, 1802, 2500, 2700, 4000           APPEAL DECISION           STEPHANIE J. COPLEY DEPUTY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSIONER          Defendants Liguria Foods, Inc., employer, and Employers Preferred Insurance Company, insurer, appeal from an arbitration decision filed on April 5, 2019, and a ruling on motion for rehearing filed on April 29, 2019. The case was heard on September 4, 2018, and considered fully submitted in front of the deputy workers' compensation commissioner on November 16, 2018.          On January 22, 2020, the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner delegated authority to the undersigned to enter a final agency decision in this matter. Therefore, this appeal decision is entered as final agency action pursuant to Iowa Code section 17A.15(3) and Iowa Code section 86.24.          In the arbitration decision, the deputy commissioner determined claimant sustained permanent disability as a result of stipulated work-related injury on November 20, 2015. More specifically, the deputy commissioner found claimant sustained a 65 percent industrial disability. In doing so, the deputy commissioner found claimant to be credible regarding her ongoing complaints of pain in her left shoulder and lower back and her difficulties with repetitive activities.          With respect to claimant's other claims, the deputy commissioner determined claimant did not refuse suitable work and was therefore entitled to healing period benefits. The deputy commissioner additionally found claimant's mental injury arose out of and in the course of her employment. Defendants were therefore ordered to pay for medical expenses relating to claimant's mental injury. Finally, the deputy commissioner awarded penalty benefits for the underpayment of healing period and permanent partial disability benefits.          In the ruling on motion for rehearing, the deputy commissioner corrected a mathematical error in his penalty benefits calculation and clarified that penalty benefits were awarded based upon defendants' failure to pay their acknowledged underpayment. The deputy commissioner also amended his order to specify that claimant's ongoing mental health treatment at Berryhill Center must be authorized by defendants.          On appeal, defendants assert claimant is not credible and did not satisfy her burden to prove her entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits or medical benefits. Defendants also argue claimant refused suitable work and therefore was not entitled to healing period benefits after the date of refusal. Lastly, defendants assert claimant failed to meet her burden to prove her entitlement to penalty benefits.          I performed a de novo review of the evidentiary record before the presiding deputy workers' compensation commissioner and the detailed arguments of the parties. Pursuant to Iowa Code section 86.24 and 17A.15, those portions of the proposed arbitration decision filed on April 5, 2019 and the ruling on motion for rehearing filed on April 29, 2019 that relate to issues properly raised on intra-agency appeal are affirmed in part without additional comment and in part with additional findings, conclusions, and analysis, as set forth below.          Credibility          I affirm the deputy commissioner's finding that claimant was credible with respect to her continued complaints of pain in her left shoulder and lower back and her difficulties with repetitive activities. While I performed a de novo review, I give considerable deference to the credibility findings of the deputy commissioner who presided at the arbitration hearing. I find the deputy commissioner correctly assessed claimant's credibility. I find nothing in the record in this matter which would cause me to reverse the deputy commissioner's finding that claimant was credible regarding her continued pain complaints and difficulties with repetitive activity.          Permanent Injury and Industrial Disability          I affirm the deputy commissioner's finding that claimant sustained a permanent injury. More specifically, I affirm the deputy commissioner's determination that claimant sustained a 65 percent industrial disability. I affirm the deputy commissioner's findings, conclusions, and analysis regarding this issue.          Mental Injury and Related Medical Treatment          With the following findings, conclusions, and analysis, I affirm the deputy commissioner's determination that claimant's mental injury was work-related.          Claimant testified she sought mental health treatment on her own after the November 20, 2015 injury due to stress she attributed to "hurting" and the resulting inability to return to work. (Hearing Transcript, p. 58) This testimony is consistent with her complaints to her providers at Berryville Center and her independent medical examiners. (See Joint Exhibit 11, pp. 77, 84-85, 91-92; JE 12, pp. 94, 96; JE 13, p. 109)          After claimant's initial presentation at Berryhill Center, she was diagnosed with "moderate episode of recurrent major depressive disorder" by the evaluating nurse practitioner. (JE 11, p. 83) She then started counseling with a licensed mental health counselor who also assessed claimant with the same diagnosis. (JE 11, p. 90)          In her independent medical examination (IME) with Todd Hansen, M.D., a pain specialist, Dr. Hansen addressed claimant's "[d]epression which has been exacerbated after her fall." (JE 12, p. 96) Dr...

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