Friday, July 15, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 111

Summary of Decision July 15, 2011

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

Citation: 2011 WY 111

Docket Number: S-10-0183

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Hampton M. Young, Jr., Law Office of Hampton M. Young, Jr., PC, Casper, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; James M. Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: July 15, 2011

Facts: The appellant injured her back while working as a nurse.  Upon returning to work, the appellant requested Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits, pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-405(h) (LexisNexis 2011), which request was denied.  The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the denial of benefits and the district court affirmed the OAH’s decision.  In this appeal, the appellant claims that the OAH hearing examiner erred as a matter of law in interpreting Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-405(h)(i), and that the hearing examiner’s decision was not supported by substantial evidence.  We will affirm.

Issues: Whether the hearing examiner’s interpretation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-405(h)(i) was contrary to law.  Whether the hearing examiner’s finding that the appellant failed to meet her burden of proving that she had suffered a loss of earning capacity was supported by substantial evidence.

Holdings: Based on the evidence presented, the hearing examiner concluded that the appellant failed to meet her burden of proof to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that because of her injury she was unable to return to work at a wage that was at least 95% of her pre-injury monthly gross income.  After reviewing the record before us, the Court concluded that this determination was supported by substantial evidence.  The OAH did not err when it interpreted Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-405(h)(i) as allowing it to consider more than just the appellant’s wage immediately upon returning to the workforce following her injury.  Also, the OAH’s determination that the appellant was capable of earning 95% of her pre-injury wage, and thus not eligible for PPD benefits, was supported by substantial evidence.  Affirmed.

Justice Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

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