Plaintiff NE Iowa Silo purchased a workers’ compensation insurance policy through an independent insurance agent. Plaintiff has job sites and employees based in Iowa and Wisconsin. The insurance agent told plaintiff the workers’ compensation policy provided coverage for employee injuries arising under Iowa and Wisconsin workers’ compensation law.
While working in Wisconsin, one of plaintiff’s employees fell from a silo, injuring multiple body parts. The employee brought a claim for workers’ compensation benefits under Wisconsin law. The insurer denied coverage, and plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action in Allamakee County, Iowa, seeking a judgment from the court as to whether coverage exists for the Wisconsin workers’ compensation claim.
On behalf of the insurer, Robert Thole argued the workers’ compensation policy only provided coverage for claims brought under Iowa workers’ compensation law and, pursuant to Wisconsin law, plaintiff was required to secure its own independent Wisconsin workers’ compensation coverage. Further, Thole argued the independent insurance agent’s statement to plaintiff that its workers’ compensation policy provided coverage under Wisconsin law was not binding on the insurer due to the agent not having authority to bind the insurer under Iowa agency law. The court adopted Thole’s arguments in its ruling denying plaintiff’s petition and assessed all costs against plaintiff.