Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 28

Summary of Decision March 12, 2013

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


Docket Number: S-12-0172

URL: http://www.courts.state.wy.us/Opinions.aspx

Appeal from the District Court of Niobrara County, Honorable Keith G. Kautz, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Brian J. Hunter of McKellar, Tiedeken & Scoggin, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Attorney General; John D. Rossetti, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: March 12, 2013

Facts: Appellant Tyler L. Stallman worked for the Wyoming Department of Corrections at the Wyoming Women’s Center in Lusk, Wyoming. She sustained significant injuries during a vehicle rollover while driving to pick up a prisoner in Sheridan. After receiving a 22% permanent partial impairment award from the Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation Division (the Division), she applied for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. The Division denied her application, finding that she did not meet the statutory definition of permanent total disability. Ms. Stallman requested a contested case hearing, and the case was referred to a panel of the Medical Commission (the Commission or panel). Based upon the evidence presented, the Commission concluded that Ms. Stallman did not meet her burden of proving that she was entitled to PTD benefits under the odd lot doctrine. The district court affirmed, and Ms. Stallman appealed to this Court, claiming that the Commission’s final order was unsupported by substantial evidence and contrary to applicable law due to improper application of the odd lot doctrine

Issues: Was the Commission’s determination that Ms. Stallman was not entitled to permanent total disability benefits under the odd lot doctrine supported by substantial evidence and consistent with applicable law?

Holdings: The application of the odd lot doctrine is undoubtedly more difficult when a claimant lives in an isolated rural community where jobs are scarce. Nonetheless, our cases make it clear that once a claimant shows that she is de facto unemployable in her community due to her degree of physical impairment and other factors, the burden shifts to the Division to show that gainful employment was in fact available. The overwhelming weight of the evidence indicates that Ms. Stallman was a prima facie candidate for odd lot treatment, and that the Division failed to establish that light work she could perform was available within a reasonable distance from Lusk. There was an error of law in the application of the odd lot doctrine, and substantial evidence does not support the Commission’s conclusions. The Court accordingly reversed and remanded, directing the district court to remand to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will also note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation to a quote the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion will need to have the reporter page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation from this, or any future opinion using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library and we will provide any needed assistance]

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