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Shelest v. State ex rel Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division

January 11, 2010

RICHARD J. SHELEST, APPELLANT (PETITIONER),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, EX REL., WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, APPELLEE (RESPONDENT).



Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice

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

BURKE, J., delivers the opinion of the Court; HILL, J., files a dissenting opinion, in which KITE, J., joins.

[¶1] Richard J. Shelest was injured in a motorcycle accident. At the time, he was an employee of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, and he filed a claim for worker's compensation benefits. The claim was denied by the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division on the basis that Mr. Shelest was not acting within the scope of his employment when he was injured. Mr. Shelest objected, and the matter was referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings, which upheld the Division's determination. Mr. Shelest appealed to the district court, which affirmed the decision. Mr. Shelest now brings his appeal before this Court. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Shelest states his two issues this way:

1. Whether the Office of Administrative Hearing's decision denying benefits was supported by substantial evidence.

2. Whether the Office of Administrative Hearing's decision denying benefits was arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law.

FACTS

[¶3] Mr. Shelest was employed by the Department of Transportation in Evanston, Wyoming. On June 20, 2006, his employer required him to attend a training program in Rock Springs. He went with his supervisor and a co-worker, and because it was a nice day, all three decided to ride their motorcycles. They left Evanston at about 7:00 a.m., Mr. Shelest's normal starting time, and the three travelled to Rock Springs on Interstate Highway 80, a distance of approximately 100 miles.

[¶4] The training finished around noon. Over lunch, the three discussed taking an alternate route home, one they thought would be more scenic and pleasant. The alternate route they discussed followed Interstate Highway 80 from Rock Springs to Green River, then took Wyoming State Highway 530 to the south and southwest, crossed into Utah on Utah State Highway 43, turned back to the west and northwest into Wyoming on Wyoming State Highway 414, and rejoined Interstate Highway 80 near Mountain View, Wyoming. The alternate route was approximately 150 miles, and took about an hour longer than the direct route. Although the three talked about the alternate route, they did not reach any decision about which route to take.

[¶5] The three left for Evanston and approached Green River on Interstate Highway 80.

The supervisor was in the lead, the co-worker second, and Mr. Shelest in the rear. The supervisor took the exit for the alternate route, and the co-worker and Mr. Shelest followed. While in Utah, Mr. Shelest lost control of his motorcycle and wrecked. He suffered broken bones and other injuries.

[¶6] Mr. Shelest applied for worker's compensation benefits for his injuries. The Division denied the claim on the basis that Mr. Shelest's injuries did not occur while he was acting within the course of his employment. More specifically, it determined that when Mr. Shelest "chose to travel an alternate route into the state of Utah rather than travel directly back to Evanston, [he] stepped out of the course of [his] employment." Mr. Shelest's objection to this determination was the subject of a contested case hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings. The hearing examiner upheld the Division's determination that Mr. Shelest was not entitled to worker's compensation benefits because he was acting outside the scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Mr. Shelest appealed that decision, first to the district court, and now to this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] "When we consider an appeal from a district court's review of an administrative agency's decision, we give no special deference to the district court's decision." Dale v. S & S Builders, LLC, 2008 WY 84, ¶ 8, 188 P.3d 554, 557 (Wyo. 2008). We review the case as though it had come directly from the administrative agency. Id. We review an administrative agency's decision pursuant to the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act, which provides in pertinent part that the reviewing court shall:

(ii) Hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings and conclusions found to be:

(A) Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law;

(B) Contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege or immunity;

(C) In excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority or limitations or ...


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