On March 11, 2015 the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled on Moad v Gary Jensen Trucking, Inc and Dakota Truck Underwriters, No. 14-0164. The Court affirmed the district court’s decision that affirmed the workers’ compensation decision from the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Heart attack cases are always difficult to evaluate and even harder to get ready for the hearing. In this case the two lawyers were Marty Diaz and Liz Craig out of Iowa City for the claimant and for the employer it was Sasha Monthei from Cedar Rapids; all very capable lawyers who know how to try a case. If before the hearing I had to pick who I thought would have won, it would be Marty, although I would have been wrong.
If given the opportunity, always consent to the autopsy.
The first thing we need to keep in mind is this appears to be a heart attack case with a claimant who smoked like a fiend. The evidence shows he had bad health habits for his entire life and at the time of his death he was certainly aging. This is an important point to keep in mind when evaluating your heart attack claim. The deputies are not going to ask an employer to pay for someone's lifetime of bad habits. This is the key to this kind of a case and when we lawyers interview anyone in a heart attack case we would do well keeping this in mind. I lost a similar case and for the longest time it really bugged me, but the longer I practice the more I understand medical evidence and even though Marty is a good lawyer, he was without an autopsy. Without an autopsy you are asking the deputy to speculate on what killed the guy; you know what ultimately caused his heart to fail that led to his death. Keep in mind the Claimant has the burden of proof.
With the burden of proof being on the Claimant the bar is high and with a disagreement between experts over what "may" have caused his death, it is nearly impossible to prove cause of death by a preponderance of the evidence. If given the opportunity to order an autospsy by all means do it. Order the autopsy.
There have been several heart attack cases where I have disagreed with the outcome. But in this instance I agree with the deputy, the district court and appellate court. Had the deputy ruled in favor of the Claimant, he/she would have been doing so based on speculation as to what killed the guy. Temporal evidence is never better than scientific evidence. Just because you have a heart attack about the time you are working or doing something strenuous does not prove the work activity caused the heart attack. Consider the elderly person who steps on spilled ice cream in HyVee and ends up with a broken hip. Many elderly people have osteoporosis and this can cause the bones to simply break due to being weak or brittle. The ice cream on the floor has nothing to do with causing the fall, but not drinking enough milk (along with old age) can cause osteoporosis and the hip bone that breaks does cause the elderly person to fall down on the ice cream.
So when you have a heart attack claim just know these are extremely difficult cases to win and sometimes even a high powered expert from Chicago will not save the day.
Hart v Allied Systems, Ltd., Iowa Court of Appeals, No. 1-792-2106, 2002