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In re Worker's Compensation Claim of Block

March 10, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF DAVID BLOCK:
DAVID BLOCK, APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING EX REL. WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT).



Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Nancy J. Guthrie, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] David Block suffered a work injury found to be compensable by the Workers' Compensation Division. A little more than two years after his injury, he applied for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. By statute, Block would be eligible for PPD benefits if, because of his work-related injury, there were no jobs available for him in Wyoming that paid at least ninety-five percent (95%) of his prior wage.*fn1 A labor market survey indicated there were no jobs available fulfilling the statutory requirements for Block in Wyoming. After receiving the labor market survey, the Division approached Block's employer at the time of his injury. At the Division's encouragement, the employer stated it would offer to rehire Block to his prior position with appropriate accommodations. Based on this assurance, and before the employer formally offered Block his old job, the Division denied Block's application for PPD benefits.

[¶2] Block declined the job offer he eventually received from his former employer. Block contested the denial of his application for PPD benefits and lost after a contested case hearing. The district court affirmed the denial. We reverse.

ISSUES

[¶3] Block presents four issues for our review:

A. Whether the Hearing Officer committed an error of law in its application of Wyoming Statute § 27-14-405 in denying permanent partial disability benefits to Appellant.

B. Whether the Order entered by the Hearing Officer on April 27, 2007, is supported by substantial evidence.

C. Whether the Order entered by the Hearing Officer on April 27, 2007, is arbitrary and capricious and contrary to Wyoming law.

D. Whether the Order entered by the Hearing Officer on April 27, 2007, is contrary to public policy.

FACTS

[¶4] In February 2002, Block worked for Tennyson-Ankeny Construction as a carpenter's helper and general laborer, earning $12.00 an hour. His job duties included cleaning the construction site of debris and snow, tearing down and removing temporary structures, and helping other workers as needed. Block testified he regularly carried twoby-fours, metal beams, doors and other heavy construction materials around the job site.

[¶5] While at work on February 19, 2002, Block injured his back and neck moving a heavy beam. The injury was reported to the Division, and Block received medical benefits and temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Ultimately, Block was assigned a seven percent whole body permanent partial impairment (PPI) rating.

[ΒΆ6] In May of 2004, Block applied for PPD benefits. Block underwent a Functional Capacity Evaluation and a Vocational Evaluation. The Functional Capacity Evaluation related that Block was limited to medium duty work. Along with the Vocational Evaluation was a labor market survey. The survey stated there were no jobs in Wyoming, within Block's physical and vocational limitations, ...


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