Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 26

Summary of Decision March 6, 2013

Justice Burke delivered the opinion for the Court. Reversed and Remanded.


Docket Number: S-12-0169


Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Gregory A. Phillips, Attorney General; John D. Rossetti, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General; Amy M. Taheri, Special Assistant Attorney General.

Representing Appellee: Robert A. Nicholas, Nicholas Law Office, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Date of Decision: March 6, 2013

Facts: Appellant, Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division, challenged an order from the Office of Administrative Hearings awarding additional temporary total disability (TTD) benefits to Appellee, Timothy Smith. The Division contended the award exceeded the maximum period for which an injured worker may receive temporary total disability benefits.

Issues: The Division presents a single issue:

Smith sustained a compensable neck injury and, despite four separate surgeries to address it, never returned to work. The Division paid Smith Temporary Total Disability benefits for thirty-six months – the maximum period allowed by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-404(a) and the Division’s Rules. The OAH found that each of Smith’s four separate surgeries was a second compensable injury, extending the amount of time the Division could pay TTD benefits. Do Wyo. Stat. Ann § 27-14-404(a) and the Division’s Rules limit TTD benefits to a cumulative maximum of thirty-six months for injuries resulting from any one incident or accident regardless of the second compensable injury role?

Mr. Smith phrases the issue as follows:

Does a second compensable injury restart the limitation period for paying temporary total disability benefits under W.S. 27-14-404(a)?

Holdings: The Court found Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-404(a) and the Division’s rules to be unambiguous. Receipt of temporary total disability benefits is limited to a maximum period of thirty-six months, which includes twenty-four months authorized under Section 404(a) and an additional twelve months allowed in extraordinary circumstances pursuant to Division rules. Under the plain language of the statute, this limitation applies to all “injuries” resulting from “any one (1) incident or accident,” encompassing situations in which the claimant receives multiple injuries simultaneously or a subsequent compensable injury as a result of a single workplace accident. Because the Division awarded TTD benefits to Mr. Smith for a period of thirty-six months as a result of a single workplace accident, he is not entitled to receive additional TTD benefits. Reversed and remanded for entry of an order consistent with this opinion.

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

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