Friday, March 02, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 32

Summary of Decision March 2, 2012

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

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

Citation:  2012 WY 32

Docket Number: S-11-0107   

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, the Honorable David B. Park, Judge

Representing Appellant (Petitioner):  Robert Nicholas of Nicholas & Crank, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellee (Respondent):  Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; John W. Renneisen, Deputy Attorney General; James Michael Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General

Date of Decision: March 2, 2012

Facts:  In 2003, Appellant was working as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) journeyman when he fell nine feet from a beam to a concrete floor and suffered a compression fracture to his L1 vertebrae.  In 2008, Appellant applied for permanent total disability benefits claiming a total disability under the “odd lot” doctrine.  The Worker’s Compensation Division denied the application.

The Division did not dispute that Appellant could not return to work as an HVAC journeyman but instead contended that his failure to obtain alternative employment was due to a preexisting psychological condition and a poor effort to find work.  The Medical Commission agreed and upheld the denial of benefits.  On appeal, the district court found the Commission’s decision to be supported by substantial evidence and affirmed.

Issue: Did the Panel err, as a matter of law, in concluding that Appellant failed to meet his burden in establishing that he is Permanently Totally Disabled?

Holdings:  The Court reversed and remanded.  The Court found that Appellant established a prima facie case under the odd lot doctrine when he showed he could not return to his former employment and the combination of his psychological and physical conditions precluded alternative employment.  The burden thereafter shifted to the Division to show that light work of a special nature, which Appellant could perform, was available.  The Division did not meet its burden.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

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