Friday, October 03, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 115

Summary of Decision issued October 3, 2008

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

Case Name: Gray v. State, ex rel., Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division

Citation: 2008 WY 115

Docket Number: S-07-0143

Appeal from the District Court of Teton County, the Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge.

Representing Appellant: David M. Gosar of Jackson, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; Steven R. Czoschke, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kristi M. Radosevich, Assistant Attorney General.

Facts/Discussion: The Division denied Appellant Gray benefits for expenses related to a back injury on the basis that the injury was not attributable to a work-related accident (a fall off a horse.)

Substantial Evidence: The OAH’s conclusion that Appellant had failed to establish that his herniated disk was related to his work injury was against the great weight of the evidence. Medical records from the incident showed that the horse struck Appellant in the back. Appellant’s testimony stated that his discomfort was ongoing from the date of the original injury. Testimony from Appellant’s doctors and the medical history were equivocal but the Division presented no other explanation for the continuing symptoms. The only relevant evidence offered by the Division was hearsay statements of Appellant’s ex-girlfriend and an anonymous caller. Neither testified at the hearing nor presented a sworn statement to the OAH.
Burden of Proof:
The hearing examiner concluded that Appellant could not meet his burden of proof because the Doctor’s medical opinion was expressed in terms of ‘can’, ‘could’, or ‘possibly.’ There is no requirement that medical testimony be presented in any specific form in a workers’ compensation case. The hearing examiner erred as a matter of law when he required Appellant conclusively to prove causation through medical testimony.
Hearsay Evidence:
Admissibility of evidence is committed to the discretion of the hearing examiner. The hearing examiner did not abuse his discretion when he admitted the hearsay statements of the anonymous caller to the Division. However, the hearing examiner should not have relied on those statements to support his conclusions when they were not corroborated by any credible evidence.

Holding: The OAH’s findings of fact and conclusions of law were unsupported by the substantial evidence. The OAH also erred as a matter of law when it held that a specific form of medical testimony was required in order for Appellant to meet his burden of proof. It was not error for the OAH to admit hearsay evidence; however, it was improper to rely on such evidence as the sole basis of support for several findings and conclusions.

Reversed, remanded.

C.J. Voigt delivered the decision.


[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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