Knaeble v. Works, 21-1934

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
Writing for the CourtVAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
PartiesDAVID KNAEBLE, Petitioner-Appellant, v. JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS, Respondent-Appellee.
Docket Number21-1934
Decision Date17 November 2022

DAVID KNAEBLE, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.

JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 21-1934

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 17, 2022


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeffrey D. Farrell, Judge.

David Knaeble appeals from a district court order affirming the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission's award of disability benefits.

Zeke R. McCartney and Mark J. Sullivan of Reynolds &Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.

Dirk J. Hamel of Gilloon, Wright & Hamel, P.C., Dubuque, for appellee.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Greer and Schumacher, JJ.

1

VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

This appeal from a workers' compensation decision raises issues relating to an award for successive disabilities.

David Knaeble sustained three employment-related injuries while working for John Deere Dubuque Works of Deere &Company: one to his right leg and left foot in 2014, a second to his hands and finger in 2017, and a third to his shoulder also in 2017. He filed three petitions for workers' compensation benefits.

On the first petition, a deputy commissioner assigned Knaeble thirty-percent industrial disability. See generally Knaeble v. John Deere Dubuque Works, Iowa Workers' Comp. Comm'n No. 5055713, 2019 WL 6358888, at *1 (Sept. 20, 2019). The record reveals no appeal of that decision.

The second petition named the Second Injury Fund of Iowa and John Deere as defendants. See Iowa Code § 85.64 (2017). That petition was consolidated with the third petition. A deputy commissioner determined Knaeble's industrial loss for the first and second injuries was eighty-five percent and the industrial loss for the third injury was five percent. The deputy initially determined the industrial disability for all three injuries was ninety-two percent. See Knaeble v. John Deere Dubuque Works, Iowa Workers' Comp. Comm'n Nos. 5066463, 5066464, 2020 WL 8297395, at *10 (Nov. 30, 2020). On rehearing, the deputy clarified that the ninety-two percent figure was a "reduction in earning capacity" based on "the combined disability of claimant's" 2014 leg injury "and his left shoulder" injury. Id. The deputy also clarified the credit owing to John Deere for previously paid benefits. Id.

2

On intra-agency appeal, the commissioner declined to revisit the deputy's eighty-five percent industrial disability determination for the first two injuries. That award was to be paid by the Second Injury Fund. See Knaeble v. John Deere Dubuque Works, Iowa Workers' Comp. Comm'n Nos. 5066463, 5066464, 2021 WL 2624582, at *3 (May 10, 2021). As for the ninety-two percent figure, the commissioner noted that the deputy "did not specifically set forth how she arrived at" that figure. Id. After surmising she used a specified methodology that incorporated the eighty-five percent industrial disability determination, the commissioner stated:

[T]hough [Knaeble's] combined industrial disability may have been 92 percent after his left shoulder injury claimant's left shoulder injury only caused an additional five percent loss of earning capacity. Thus, without a credit or accounting for the 85 percent industrial disability caused by the two qualifying members, claimant is receiving the 85 percent industrial disability award twice-once from the Fund in the 85 percent award and once from Deere in the 92 percent award. As such, an award of 85 percent industrial disability from the Fund and an award of 92 percent industrial disability from John Deere results in a double recovery
. . . To avoid such a double recovery in this case, I find Deere is responsible only for a five percent loss of earning capacity as a result of the left shoulder injury ....
. . . I find Deere is responsible for a combined disability of 35 percent. The deputy commissioner's finding that Deere is responsible for a combined 92 percent disability is therefore modified.

Id. at *5-6. On judicial review, the district court affirmed the commissioner's decision. Knaeble appealed.

Successive disabilities are governed by Iowa Code section 85.34(7) (2017). The version in effect at the time of Knaeble's injury stated in pertinent...

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