IBP, Inc. v. Harker, No. 99-1708.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtTERNUS, Justice.
Citation633 N.W.2d 322
PartiesIBP, INC., Appellant, v. Howard HARKER, Appellee.
Decision Date06 September 2001
Docket NumberNo. 99-1708.

633 N.W.2d 322

IBP, INC., Appellant,
v.
Howard HARKER, Appellee

No. 99-1708.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

September 6, 2001.


633 N.W.2d 323
James C. Meehan, Dakota City, NE, for appellant

Al Sturgeon, Sioux City, for appellee.

TERNUS, Justice.

Iowa's workers' compensation statute requires an employer to reimburse an employee for the costs of an independent medical examination (IME) when "an evaluation of permanent disability has been made by a physician retained by the employer and the employee believes this evaluation to be too low." Iowa Code § 85.39 (1997). In this case, the industrial commissioner ruled that the employer was required to pay for its employee's IME, even though the employee, not the employer, chose the treating physicians who had rendered disability ratings that the employee thought were too low. The district court affirmed the industrial commissioner's ruling on judicial review. The employer has appealed. We reverse and remand.

633 N.W.2d 324
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The pertinent facts are essentially undisputed. The appellee, Howard Harker, is an Iowa resident employed as a truck driver by appellant, IBP, inc. On February 6, 1997, Harker was injured in a fall at IBP's West Point, Nebraska plant. When Harker presented himself to IBP's health services department, he was advised that under Nebraska law he was allowed to choose his own physician for treatment of his injuries. See Neb.Rev.Stat. § 48-120 (1997). Harker decided to seek treatment from Dr. Merle Muller, to whom he had previously been sent by IPB for an employment physical. The parties agree that Harker chose Dr. Muller and IBP acquiesced in this choice.

Dr. Muller referred Harker to an orthopedist, Dr. Raymond Sherman. Dr. Sherman, in turn, referred Harker to Dr. Leonel Herrera, a neurologist. Over a period of months, Harker saw Dr. Sherman and Dr. Herrera for treatment and rehabilitation. By the end of the summer, both doctors released Harker from their care, stating that he had suffered no permanent impairment as a result of his fall.

Harker then filed a petition with the Iowa industrial commissioner, asking for an IME at IBP's expense pursuant to section 85.39. IBP resisted, arguing that it had not retained the physicians who had rendered the permanent disability evaluations that were not to Harker's liking. A deputy industrial commissioner denied Harker's application, concluding that Harker had already "had an impairment evaluation by his own doctor."

Harker appealed the deputy's ruling to the industrial commissioner. The commissioner noted that, although Harker chose his treating physicians, IBP "acquiesced in claimant's choice of physician[s]" and paid for their services. The commissioner concluded that Dr. Sherman and Dr. Herrera were "physicians retained by the employer in fulfilling its obligation to provide claimant with medical care," and, therefore, IBP was obligated to pay for an IME.

IBP sought judicial review of the commissioner's decision. The district court upheld the commissioner's ruling, holding that "IBP chose Dr. Mueller [sic] as Harker's employer-retained physician when it acquiesced to his course of medical treatment." IBP has now appealed to this court.

II. Scope of Review.

The Iowa Administrative Procedure Act, Iowa Code chapter 17A, governs our review. See Pirelli-Armstrong Tire Co. v. Reynolds, 562 N.W.2d 433, 436 (Iowa 1997). Section 17A.19 permits a reviewing court to reverse an agency decision when it is "[i]n violation of constitutional or statutory provisions," or when it is "unsupported by substantial evidence in the record made before the agency when that record is viewed as a whole." Iowa Code § 17A.19(8). This court applies the standards of section 17A.19(8) to the agency's actions to determine whether our legal conclusions are the same as those reached by the district court. See Ewing v. Allied Constr. Servs., 592 N.W.2d 689, 691 (Iowa 1999). If our conclusions are the same, we affirm; if they are not, we reverse. See id.

III. Issues on Appeal and Governing Legal Principles.

This case requires the court to interpret the meaning of "retained by the employer" in Iowa Code section 85.39. Based on our interpretation of this language, we must then consider whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the industrial commissioner's determination

633 N.W.2d 325
that, pursuant to section 85.39, Harker is entitled to an IME at IPB's expense

"In reviewing the commissioner's interpretation of the statutes governing the agency, we defer to the expertise of the agency, but reserve for ourselves the final interpretation of the law." Second Injury Fund v. Bergeson, 526 N.W.2d 543, 546 (Iowa 1995); accord Henriksen v. Younglove Constr., 540 N.W.2d 254, 256 (Iowa 1995) ("The proper interpretation of the workers' compensation statute is a question of law for this court."). Well-established rules govern our interpretation of statutes:

When interpreting a statute, our ultimate goal is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature. We seek a reasonable interpretation that will best effect the purpose of the statute and avoid an absurd result. We consider all portions of the statute together, without attributing undue importance to any single or isolated portion.

John Deere Dubuque Works v. Weyant, 442 N.W.2d 101, 104 (Iowa 1989) (citations omitted).

"To ascertain legislative intent, we look to what the legislature said. We do not speculate as to the probable legislative intent apart from the words used in the statute." State v. Adams, 554 N.W.2d 686, 689 (Iowa 1996). "Absent legislative definition or a particular and appropriate meaning in law,...

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38 practice notes
  • Donnell v. City of Cedar Rapaid, Iowa, No. 05-CV-49-LRR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2006
    ...avoids absurd results. Teamsters Local Union No. 421 v. City of Dubuque, 706 N.W.2d 709, 717 (Iowa 2005) (citing IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001)); State v. Petithory, 702 N.W.2d 854, 859 (Iowa 2005) (stating that the Iowa Supreme Court interprets statutes in a commonsen......
  • State v. Effler, No. 06-1417.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 17, 2009
    ...or that of the district court. To resolve this question, we are required to determine the legislature's intent. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001). That intent is reflected in the words chosen by the legislature. State v. Stone, 764 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Iowa 2009). We give wor......
  • State v. Spencer, No. 06-0565.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 3, 2007
    ...or guardian. Before engaging in statutory construction, we must first determine whether the statute is ambiguous. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001). A statute is ambiguous "if reasonable persons could disagree as to its meaning." Id. (citation omitted). "Ambiguity may ari......
  • Miller v. Marshall County, No. 00-0341.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 27, 2002
    ...period of the lease. In interpreting statutes, we seek to 641 N.W.2d 748 effectuate the legislature's intent. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001); Iowa Dist. Ct., 616 N.W.2d at 578. When a statute is unambiguous, we need not look beyond the plain meaning of the express stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
38 cases
  • Donnell v. City of Cedar Rapaid, Iowa, No. 05-CV-49-LRR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2006
    ...avoids absurd results. Teamsters Local Union No. 421 v. City of Dubuque, 706 N.W.2d 709, 717 (Iowa 2005) (citing IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001)); State v. Petithory, 702 N.W.2d 854, 859 (Iowa 2005) (stating that the Iowa Supreme Court interprets statutes in a commonsen......
  • State v. Effler, No. 06-1417.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 17, 2009
    ...or that of the district court. To resolve this question, we are required to determine the legislature's intent. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001). That intent is reflected in the words chosen by the legislature. State v. Stone, 764 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Iowa 2009). We give wor......
  • State v. Spencer, No. 06-0565.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 3, 2007
    ...or guardian. Before engaging in statutory construction, we must first determine whether the statute is ambiguous. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001). A statute is ambiguous "if reasonable persons could disagree as to its meaning." Id. (citation omitted). "Ambiguity may ari......
  • Miller v. Marshall County, No. 00-0341.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 27, 2002
    ...period of the lease. In interpreting statutes, we seek to 641 N.W.2d 748 effectuate the legislature's intent. IBP, Inc. v. Harker, 633 N.W.2d 322, 325 (Iowa 2001); Iowa Dist. Ct., 616 N.W.2d at 578. When a statute is unambiguous, we need not look beyond the plain meaning of the express stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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