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Glaze v. State ex rel Wyoming Workers‟ Safety and Compensation

August 19, 2009

IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER‟S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF: PAUL D. GLAZE, APPELLANT (CLAIMANT-PETITIONER),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, EX REL., WYOMING WORKERS‟ SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, APPELLEE (OBJECTOR-RESPONDENT).



Appeal from the District Court of Sublette County The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge.

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

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

[¶1] Paul Glaze appeals from the district court‟s order affirming the Medical Commission‟s ruling that he was not entitled to additional temporary total disability benefits. The Medical Commission determined that Mr. Glaze failed to meet his burden of proving that, after he had been awarded permanent partial disability benefits, he had suffered an increase in incapacity due solely to his work related injury. After reviewing the entire record in accordance with our standard of review, we conclude that the Medical Commission‟s decision was contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Consequently, we reverse and remand.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Glaze presents related issues on appeal:

A. Whether the Medical Commission committed an error of law by denying [Mr. Glaze] temporary total disability benefits subsequent to his award and receipt of permanent partial disability benefits.

B. Whether the decision of the Medical Commission is supported by substantial evidence.

1. Whether the determination by the Medical Commission that [Mr. Glaze] failed to show that the surgery at issue was solely related to the work-place injury is supported by substantial evidence.

2. Whether the determination by the Medical Commission that [Mr. Glaze] failed to show an increase in incapacity is supported by substantial evidence.

Although phrased more generally, the State of Wyoming ex rel. Wyoming Workers‟ Safety and Compensation Division (Division) propounds a similar issue.

FACTS

[¶3] Mr. Glaze suffered a work related back injury in 2002 and underwent surgery to fuse the herniated disc at level L5-S1. The Division paid medical benefits and temporary total disability benefits. In 2003-2004, Mr. Glaze received permanent partial impairment benefits and a permanent partial disability award pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-405 (LexisNexis 2009). Although his physician, Mary Neal, M.D., released him to return to light duty work, he did not work after the 2002 injury.

[¶4] On February 9, 2005, Mr. Glaze underwent surgery to repair damage to the segment adjacent to the fused segment, L4-5. Dr. Neal certified that Mr. Glaze was unable to work as a result of the surgery, and he applied for temporary total disability benefits. The Division issued a final determination, denying Mr. Glaze‟s request for benefits pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-404(b) (LexisNexis 2009) because he had already received permanent partial disability benefits and had not returned to gainful employment.

[¶5] On March 3, 2005, Mr. Glaze filed an objection to the Division‟s final determination. He requested that the matter be referred to the appropriate administrative agency for contested case proceedings. His notice of objection also stated:

It is the position of Mr. Glaze that he has suffered an increase of incapacity solely related to his work related injury and therefore his current claims for temporary total disability benefits are compensable under the Wyoming Workers‟ Compensation Act. Please consider this correspondence as a petition for modification of benefits pursuant to W.S. § 27-14-605.

The Division referred the case to the Medical Commission.

[¶6] On April 29, 2005, Glaze filed, with the Medical Commission, a formal petition for modification of benefits under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-605(a) (LexisNexis 2009), which allows additional benefits if the claimant has suffered an increase of incapacity due solely to the work related injury.

[¶7] The hardware used to fuse the L4-5 segment in February of 2005 failed, and Mr. Glaze underwent another surgery on May 27, 2005 to repair the problem. Dr. Neil continued to certify that Mr. Glaze was temporarily totally disabled until October 1, 2005.

[ΒΆ8] After a contested case hearing, a Medical Commission hearing panel ruled that Mr. Glaze was not entitled to additional temporary total disability benefits because he had not shown that he had suffered an increase of incapacity due solely to his work related injury. The district court ...


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