Friday, October 28, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 148

Summary of Decision October 28, 2011

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

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

Citation:  2011 WY 148

Docket Number: S-11-0029, S-11-0030

W.R.A.P. 12.09(b) Certification from the District Court of Laramie County, The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

Representing Appellants (Petitioners): Robert A. Nicholas, Nicholas & Crank, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Respondent) Wyoming Workers’ Safety & Compensation Division: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; James Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Representing Appellee (Respondent) Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.: John A. Sundahl, Sundahl, Powers, Kapp & Martin, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: October 28, 2011

Facts:  The appellants, a forklift operator and a yard driver, were injured in separate incidents while working at a distribution center for a major retailer.  After receiving compensation through the company’s private workers’ compensation fund, the appellants filed for benefits under the Wyoming Worker’s Compensation Act (the Act).  The Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division (Division) denied their request because they were “not employed in an occupation requiring coverage.”  The appellants requested a contested case hearing and the Division referred the request to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

Prior to the hearing, the Division filed a motion for summary judgment asserting, inter alia, that the appellants were not covered by the Act.  In response, the appellants filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment arguing that the Division was required to assess the distribution center as an establishment separate from the company’s retail centers with a primary function of warehousing (an extrahazardous classification) and, therefore, that the appellants were covered by the Act.  OAH granted Appellees’ motions for summary judgment.  The district court certified to this Court the question of whether the appellants should be classified as engaged in extrahazardous employment.

Issue: In granting summary judgment, did the OAH correctly rule that the appellants’ claims were not covered by the Wyoming Worker’s Compensation Act?

Holdings:  Affirmed.  The company’s Wyoming operations were properly assigned code 452910 Warehouse Clubs and Supercenters based on its primary business.  The distribution center is not entitled to its own classification separate from the retail stores.  This coding is not enumerated by the legislature as extrahazardous.  Claimants’ responsibilities, regardless of whether or not extrahazardous, do not alter the company’s primary business activities.  Because the company is not engaged in extrahazardous business activities and did not elect to contribute to the state workers’ compensation fund, the appellants are not entitled to benefits.

J. Voigt delivered the opinion for the court.

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