Quaker Oats Co. v. Ciha, 95-314

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtConsidered by McGIVERIN; McGIVERIN
Citation552 N.W.2d 143
PartiesQUAKER OATS COMPANY, Appellant, v. Bradley CIHA, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 95-314,95-314
Decision Date24 July 1996

Page 143

552 N.W.2d 143
Bradley CIHA, Appellee.
No. 95-314.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
July 24, 1996.

Page 146

James E. Shipman and Chad M. VonKampen of Simmons, Perrine, Albright & Ellwood, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Robert R. Rush and Jana L. Happel of Lynch, Dallas, Smith & Harman, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.


McGIVERIN, Chief Justice.

Several issues are presented in this workers' compensation case: whether petitioner Bradley Ciha sustained an injury arising in the course of employment, whether certain expenses incurred by Ciha as a result of his injury are compensable under Iowa Code section 85.27, and whether Ciha sustained an eighty percent industrial disability. The industrial commissioner and district court found in favor of Ciha on all issues. Because we believe the commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.

I. Background facts. In May 1991, petitioner Bradley Ciha was employed by defendant Quaker Oats Company at its Cedar Rapids plant as an area maintenance supervisor. Quaker Oats employed twenty to twenty-five such supervisors. In that position, he was responsible for the planning, scheduling, and supervising of plant maintenance in a designated area of the plant's operation. By all accounts, Ciha was considered an excellent employee. Ciha's normal work week at Quaker Oats was Monday through Friday. On a typical weekend including Saturday and Sunday, Ciha was not on duty and was not expected to be on call to drive to the plant for emergency maintenance purposes.

For the first forty-eight hours on Memorial Day weekend in 1991, Ciha was assigned as "204 supervisor" for Quaker Oats. 1 In

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that capacity, he was required to be on call for mechanical emergencies anywhere in the plant. On that particular Memorial Day weekend, Quaker Oats engaged in periodic heat sterilization of the plant for pest control purposes.

While preparing dinner at his home on Sunday, May 26, Ciha was contacted at approximately 4:15 p.m. through a company electronic paging device. 2 He was informed that several large cooling fans at the plant were malfunctioning. Ciha responded to the breakdown by electing to drive his motorcycle to the plant to remedy the problem himself. To reach the plant, Ciha drove a direct route (of approximately four and a half miles) on Johnson Avenue. After reaching the plant without incident, he personally remedied the problem by cooling the fans with an air hose. At approximately 5:45 p.m., Ciha telephoned his wife and informed her that she could resume dinner preparations because he was about to return home.

Ciha drove a different route from the plant to home than he drove earlier from his home to the plant. The return-home route was on Ellis road and was admittedly not the most direct route from the plant to Ciha's home. The Ellis road route (approximately nine miles) was scenic and subject to less traffic and traffic signals than the direct route Ciha commonly drove from home to the plant. Apparently, the Ellis road route took approximately five to seven minutes longer to drive than the direct, Johnson road route. Ciha chose to drive this route home only during the spring, summer, and fall seasons as the road could become treacherous during the winter months.

On his return trip from the plant to home along Ellis road, Ciha was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in which he suffered a broken neck and was rendered a quadriplegic. At the time of the accident, Ciha was married and resided in a home in Cedar Rapids with his wife, Kim.

Following the accident, Ciha was admitted to St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids until June 12, 1991, when he requested transfer to a specialized care facility, Craig Hospital, located in Englewood, Colorado. Kim accompanied Ciha to Colorado and she remained with him for the duration of his stay.

In addition to the health care Ciha received while at Craig, the hospital also provided Kim specialized training in order for her to be able to care for Ciha upon his return home. Kim received specialized training in areas including suprapubic catheterization, bowel care, skin care, and recognizing potentially dangerous or life threatening conditions that may confront Ciha as a quadriplegic.

Ciha was discharged from Craig Hospital on September 14, 1991, to his home in Cedar Rapids. 3 Since his discharge, Kim has performed necessary, extensive home nursing services. Ciha requires assistance in dressing, changing urine bags, and transferring between his wheelchair and his bed. At night, he must be repositioned in bed one to four times in order to prevent him from developing pressure sores. Also, Kim must perform digital stimulation of Ciha for approximately

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ninety minutes every other day to induce bowel movements.

Ciha first returned to work at Quaker Oats in January 1992 in a new position as materials supervisor. In this position, he works at a computer (with the aid of an adaptive device and telephone headset) in the company's purchasing department. With the aid of a modified computer, Ciha analyzes inventory and makes purchases on behalf of Quaker Oats. Quaker Oats greatly aided in Ciha's return to work by adapting the workplace and position in order for Ciha to be able to perform the job. 4 It is apparent Ciha has progressed well in the new position.

In his position as materials supervisor, he receives the same base salary, not including raises, as that of an area maintenance supervisor. Ciha no longer has the same opportunity, however, to earn overtime as he had as an area maintenance supervisor. As an example of this, Ciha no longer can receive weekend pay and overtime as a 204 supervisor.

In order to return to work, Ciha relied on the county's disabled persons transportation service to and from Quaker Oats. Based on the hours of the transportation service, however, Ciha was not able to return to work full-time.

Ciha was readmitted to Craig for one week in March 1992 for a comprehensive evaluation. At the time of his readmittance, Ciha did not own a van and did not drive. While at Craig, Ciha had his driving potential assessed. A driving specialist from the hospital concluded Ciha would need to purchase a specially modified van in order to be able to drive independently. At some time thereafter, Ciha purchased the recommended van.

Many of Ciha's medical expenses from the accident were paid for through a group health and accident insurance plan available to Ciha through his employer Quaker Oats. However, there were significant limitations in coverage under the group plan. For example, in addition to a lifetime cap on medical expenses, the group plan did not provide Ciha coverage for necessary home health care services, home modifications, or motor vehicle conversions.

II. Workers' compensation litigation. In November 1991, Ciha filed a claim for permanent partial disability benefits, see Iowa Code § 85.34(2)(u) (1991), with the Iowa industrial commissioner's office against his employer, Quaker Oats, alleging a personal injury to the body as a whole (including head, arms, back, and legs). 5 In his petition for arbitration, Ciha also claimed he had incurred expenses under Iowa Code section 85.27 stemming from his alleged permanent injury. 6

In answer to Ciha's petition, Quaker Oats denied Ciha had sustained a compensable, permanent injury to the body as a whole, and denied Ciha had incurred expenses compensable under section 85.27.

Ciha's claim proceeded to an arbitration hearing. See Iowa Code § 86.14. At the hearing, the parties stipulated that:

--An employment relationship existed between Ciha and Quaker Oats on the date of Ciha's claimed work-related injury, May 26, 1991;

--The alleged injury to Ciha caused temporary disability from May 27, 1991 to June 19, 1992;

--The alleged injury caused an industrial disability of disputed extent;

--Disputed medical expenses are causally connected to the alleged injury; and

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--Quaker Oats was entitled to a credit for workers' compensation benefits paid voluntarily to Ciha.

The issues presented for resolution by the deputy industrial commissioner at the arbitration hearing included:

(1) whether Ciha sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment;

(2) the extent of Ciha's claimed permanent disability;

(3) the proper rate of weekly compensation; and

(4) whether Ciha was entitled to claimed section 85.27 medical expenses including home modification, van purchase and modification and home nursing care provided by Ciha's wife.

After the hearing, the deputy made several findings of fact and conclusions of law now the focus of the present appeal. First, the deputy concluded Ciha sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment. Relying on our decision in Kyle v. Greene High School, 208 Iowa 1037, 226 N.W. 71 (1929), the deputy concluded that, at the time of his accident, Ciha was performing a "special service or errand" for the benefit of his employer and that the task was a "duty incidental to the nature of his employment in the interest of, or under direction of, his employer." The deputy's reliance on the above-described "special errand" exception to the "going and coming" rule made it unnecessary for it to decide whether the "required vehicle" exception to the rule would also render Ciha's personal injury work-related for workers' compensation purposes.

Second, the deputy concluded Ciha had not "deviated" at the time of the accident so as to remove himself from the course of his employment. The deputy concluded:

The fact that [Ciha] chose, as his regular route, a trip that took perhaps five to seven minutes longer so that he might enjoy a more scenic and less traveled way does not establish a substantial deviation from his special errand.... Electing a slightly...

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