Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 57

Summary of Decision March 30, 2011

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

Case Name: State, ex rel., Wyo. Workers’ Safety and Comp. Div. v. Singer

Citation: 2011 WY 57

Docket Number: S-10-0064


W.R.A.P. 12.09(b) Certification from the District Court of Natrona County, The Honorable Scott W. Skavdahl, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner): Bruce A. Salzburg, Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; James Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Douglas M. Lesley, Special Assistant Attorney General.

Representing Appellee (Respondent): Mark L. Carman, Carman Law Office, PC, Billings, Montana.

Date of Decision: March 30, 2011

Facts: Appellee experienced a work-related injury in 2002 and received workers’ compensation benefits related to the injury. In 2003, it was determined that Appellee had a 30 percent whole body permanent partial impairment due to his injury and he accepted a permanent partial impairment award from the Division. In 2004, he received a permanent partial disability award as a result of the same injury. In 2009, the Division determined that Mr. Singer was entitled to a permanent total disability award due to the progression of his injury. The Division reduced Appellee’s permanent total disability award by the amount of the previous permanent partial disability award and also by the amount for the previous permanent partial impairment award.

Appellee agreed that his previous permanent partial disability award should be deducted, but objected to the deduction of his previous permanent partial impairment award. The matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings for a contested case hearing. The hearing examiner concluded that the Division had incorrectly reduced Appellee’s permanent total disability award by the amount paid for his previous permanent partial impairment award. The Division petitioned for review by the district court. The district court certified the matter to this Court pursuant to W.R.A.P. 12.09(b), and the Court accepted the case for review.

Issue: Whether the hearing examiner, as a matter of fact and law, misinterpreted and misapplied Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 27-14-405 and 27-14-406 in concluding the legislature did not intend for previous physical impairment awards to be deducted from permanent total disability awards granted pursuant to the Wyoming Worker’s Compensation Act.

Holdings: The Court concluded that Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-406 is ambiguous. Forced to choose between an interpretation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-406(a) that would require deduction of all impairment awards or none, as in the case presented here, the Court concluded that the legislature intended deduction of Appellee’s prior impairment award. The Court did not determine whether the legislature intended that a prior impairment award must be deducted in every case. Reversed and remanded to the district court with instructions that the case be remanded to OAH.

J. Burke delivered the opinion for the court.

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