Iowa: Trial Court Has Jurisdiction to Hear Emotional Distress Claim Associated With Whistle-Blowing Activity

Iowa: Trial Court Has Jurisdiction to Hear Emotional Distress Claim Associated With Whistle-Blowing Activity

An Iowa appellate court recently affirmed, in relevant part, a trial court's denial of defendants’ motion for judgment N.O.V., and for new trial, after a jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff on his claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress and the trial court ruled in plaintiff's favor on his whistleblower claim. Defendants had contended that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because any injuries plaintiff may have suffered were work-related injuries subject to the exclusivity provisions of Iowa's Workers' Compensation Act.  Distinguishing Dunlavey v. Economy Fire & Casualty Co., 526 N.W. 2d 845 (Iowa 1995), where the court had recognized mental injuries may fall under the IWCA if caused by “unusual stress,” the court indicated Dunlavey did not address the issue of whether the IWCA covered mental injuries arising from intentional wrongful conduct.  Observing that Iowa courts had not abandoned the general rule that excludes intentional torts from the exclusive jurisdiction of the workers' compensation system, the state high court held the trial court had appropriately exercised jurisdiction.  It held, however, that there was no proof the actions taken against plaintiff were “as a reprisal for” his protected disclosure; his whistle-blower claim, therefore, failed.

Reported by Thomas A. Robinson, J.D.

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See Smith v. Iowa St. Univ., 2013 Iowa App. LEXIS 909 (Aug. 21, 2013) [2013 Iowa App. LEXIS 909 (Aug. 21, 2013)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 104.05 [104.05]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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