SW Legal studies in Business

Employer at Time of Employee Injury Controls Treatment After Employee Departs

Iowa high court held that an employee who suffered an injury on a job, and then went to work for another employer, must submit to the regular medical process of the previous employer since workers' compensation benefits stem from the injury that happened under that employer, who remains responsible.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words

Workers' Compensation

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Gwinn injured his Achilles tendon when working for Bell Brothers. Doctor 1 approved his returning to work, but said he should limit activity. Gwinn visited Doctor 2, who agreed with Doctor 1 that the injury was not permanent. Two years later, when Gwinn worked for another company, he suffered pain at times. Doctor 3 concluded there could be permanent damage, and recommended extensive treatment. Bell Brothers rejected that doctor's opinion and sent Gwinn back to Doctor 2. He recommended physical therapy only, but Gwinn returned to Doctor 3 who recommended extensive treatment. Bell Brothers refused to pay for treatment and the workers' compensation commissioner agreed that Gwinn did not have a right to choose doctors outside of the list of approved physicians. Returning for further evaluation, Doctor 2 again recommended limited physical therapy. Gwinn then allowed Doctor 3 to perform surgery. The workers' compensation commissioner then ruled that Gwinn suffered a permanent impairment when the injury first occurred and awarded him permanent partial disability and allowed recovery of surgery expenses. Bell Brothers appealed but the district court and court of appeals upheld the decision. Bell Brothers appealed again.


Reversed and remanded. The determination by the commission that the injury was permanent was premature. Gwinn had not completed all treatment after the surgery. In any event, Bell Brothers did not lose its right to choose Gwinn's medical care after he left the company and went to work elsewhere. The injury occurred while at Bell and treatment began at that time and would continue under the same insurance program. There was no reason for the commissioner to declare that Gwinn could choose alternative medical treatment and that Bell would be responsible for that choice. After a reasonable time has passed, there can be another evaluation of Gwinn's tendon to see if it has healed or not.

Citation Bell Brothers Heating & Air Conditioning v. Gwinn, ---N.W.2d--- (2010 WL 743940, Sup. Ct., Iowa, 2010)

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