Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 124

Summary of Decision issued August 3, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Huntington v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Division

Citation: 2007 WY 124

Docket Number: 06-237

Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County, Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner): David M. Gosar of Jackson, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Respondent): Patrick J. Crank, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; Steven R. Czoschke, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Kristi M. Radosevich, Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: August 3, 2007

Issue: Whether the OAH acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it denied benefits for the continued deterioration of appellant’s back.

Facts/Discussion: A claimant in a workers’ compensation case must prove all elements of his or her claim for benefits by a preponderance of the evidence. For purposes of workers’ compensation, Wyo. Stat. Ann. 27-14-102(a)(xi) defines “injury”.
A causal connection exists between a claimant’s injury and his or her employment when there is a nexus between the injury and some condition, activity, environment or requirement of the employment. The causal connection between an accident or condition at the workplace is satisfied if the medical expert testifies that it is more probable than not that the work contributed in a material fashion to the precipitation, aggravation or acceleration of the injury. A standard of reasonable medical certainty with respect to such causal connection is not invoked. Testimony by the medical expert to the effect that the injury “most likely,” “contributed to,” or “probably” is the product of the workplace suffices under the established standard.
In the present action, the OAH found the Appellant’s expert’s opinion unpersuasive since it failed to take some of Appellant’s activities after the workplace back injury into account in reaching his conclusions about whether the Appellant’s present condition was a direct result of that injury. Against advice, appellant admittedly obtained one job that required some lifting and another that required him to stand on a hard floor that bothered his back. Further, the appellant subsequently suffered two additional injuries that required medical attention. An “unreasonable or not adequately supported” opinion is grounds for disregarding a medical opinion. Thus, the OAH could correctly conclude that, faced with the evidence of other potential causes for the appellant’s increasing back pain, the appellant had not met his burden of proving that the earlier workplace injury caused his current condition because the appellant’s medical reports did not attempt to determine the contribution that the subsequent injuries and work history had on the appellant’s condition. The evidence submitted did not acknowledge the existence of the subsequent work history or accidents.

Holdings: The OAH did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in denying the appellant worker’s compensation benefits in the instant case because the appellant’s medical evidence failed to address the impact that working against medical advice and subsequent injuries had on the appellant’s medical condition. Absent such evidence, the appellant failed to meet his burden of proving the essential element of causation.


C.J. Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

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