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Case No. 17-1503

Thomas James Dunlap
v.
AIG, Inc., Commerce and Industry Insurance Company and AIG Domestic Claims, Inc. Corporations

Appellant

Thomas James Dunlap

Appellee

AIG, Inc., Commerce and Industry Insurance Company and AIG Domestic Claims, Inc. Corporations

Attorneys for Appellant

Steven J. Crowley and Edward J. Prill

Attorneys for Appellee

Keith P. Duffy, Coreen K. Sweeney, and Stephanie L. Marett

Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals Opinion

Opinion Number:
17-1503
Date Published:
Jan 09, 2019
Summary

            Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.  AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS.  Heard by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Danilson, S.J.  Opinion by Doyle, J.  (30 pages)

            Thomas Dunlap appeals the dismissal of his civil suit against his former employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier following the district court’s grant of summary judgment in the insurers’ favor.  OPINION HOLDS:  Upon our review, we affirm the district court’s ruling in all respects but one.  The district court erred in finding the defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on Dunlap’s 2012 injury claim because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the defendants’ reliance upon Dr. Wolfe’s subsequent opinion was reasonable.  Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Dunlap, a reasonable fact-finder could find that the defendants’ reliance was simply not reasonable once they were aware three other experts had opined a causal connection existed between Dunlap’s established 2007 work injury and his later injuries and Dr. Wolfe clarified his opinion with a condition that could change his opinion from possible causation to probable causation.  Because a fact question exists as to whether the defendants’ reliance was reasonable, the claim was not fairly debatable as a matter of law.  Consequently, we reverse the district court’s ruling in that regard and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  We do not retain jurisdiction, and any costs are assessed to the defendants.

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