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

February 4, 2010

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



Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge.

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

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

[¶1] After experiencing sudden numbness and weakness on his left side while at work, Bryan Dutcher sought workers' compensation benefits. The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division (the Division) denied coverage and Mr. Dutcher objected. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) held a contested case hearing and, concluding that Mr. Dutcher failed to prove his injuries were work related, upheld the denial. The district court affirmed and Mr. Dutcher appealed to this Court. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Dutcher presents the following issues for this Court's determination:

A. Is there substantial evidence to support the Hearing Officer's conclusion?

B. Is the Hearing Officer's decision arbitrary and capricious?

FACTS

[¶3] Mr. Dutcher was employed as a laborer for L&L Mine Services in Gillette, Wyoming. On October 9, 2006, he was lying on his left side scraping grease off a large piece of equipment. As he reached with his right arm, he felt numbness and weakness in his left side. Later, he felt dizzy, could not use his left arm and experienced weakness in his left leg and left facial droop.

[¶4] Mr. Dutcher informed his foreman, who transported him from the mine into town where his wife met them and took Mr. Dutcher to the emergency room. The medical personnel admitted and examined him over the next few days as a possible stroke victim. The hospital released him on October 12, 2006.

[¶5] On October 16, 2006, Mr. Dutcher consulted Angelo Santiago, M.D., a neurologist who, after examining Mr. Dutcher and performing tests, diagnosed him with brachial plexopathy.*fn1 Mr. Dutcher sought a second opinion from another neurologist, Robert Finley, M.D. After examining him, Dr. Finley recommended that Mr. Dutcher continue treatment with Dr. Santiago. Mr. Dutcher sought still another opinion from Dr. Robert Neuwirth, who concluded brachial plexopathy was unlikely and the most likely diagnosis was cervical myelopathy. Dr. Neuwirth also noted significant thyroid dysfunction as a contributing factor and the possibility of an injury to Mr. Dutcher's vertebral artery perhaps brought on by his prolonged position on his left side at work.

[¶6] Mr. Dutcher returned to work in the latter part of December, 2006. In May of 2007, his employer let him go and Mr. Dutcher filed an injury report with the Division. The Division denied coverage in a final determination issued on August 7, 2007, in which it noted Mr. Dutcher had a pre-existing seizure condition and concluded there was no clear indication of a work injury. Mr. Dutcher objected and the Division referred the case to the OAH.

[¶7] In early 2008, the Division retained Thomas Mayer, M.D., another neurologist, to perform an independent medical examination of Mr. Dutcher. Dr. Mayer concurred with the diagnosis of brachial plexopathy and concluded it was related to Mr. Dutcher's employment. Dr. Mayer also concluded the brachial plexopathy may have been followed by, and may have triggered, a seizure.

[ΒΆ8] The OAH held a contested case hearing on April 15, 2008. Following the hearing, the hearing examiner denied Mr. Dutcher's claim for benefits, concluding he did not meet his burden of proving that the seizure or brachial plexopathy were related to his employment. Mr. Dutcher appealed the order to the district ...


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