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Carol Johnson v. State of Wyoming

December 17, 2010

CAROL JOHNSON, 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 Dan R. Price II, Judge

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Carol Johnson challenges a Medical Commission decision denying her preauthorization for shoulder surgery, after the Wyoming Workers' Safety & Compensation Division (Division) granted her benefits for both shoulders. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Johnson has only one issue before this Court:

Did the Medical Commission have jurisdiction to address the issue of the compensability of the original injury after the employer and the Division agreed the injury was compensable and the Division paid benefits toward the injury?

FACTS

[¶3] For over ten years, Carol Johnson has been employed as a custodian by Campbell County School District Number One. Her duties included vacuuming, mopping, and lifting. In 2006, Johnson began experiencing pain in her right shoulder. She used her left arm to compensate for the pain, and as a result, began experiencing pain in her left shoulder as well.

[¶4] In May of 2008, Johnson filed an injury report asserting that her bilateral shoulder pain was caused by her employment. The Division issued a "Final Determination" opening a case and granting benefits for both shoulders. In July of 2008, the Division authorized surgery for Johnson's right shoulder, and Johnson underwent surgery the following month. In October of 2008, Johnson requested preauthorization for surgery on her left shoulder, but the Division denied Johnson's request. She objected, and the matter was referred to the Medical Commission.

[¶5] In July of 2009, the Medical Commission conducted a contested case hearing, where Johnson argued that the proposed surgery was related to her work injury. She contended that the Division should be estopped from asserting that she did not suffer a work injury. The Medical Commission denied benefits, and the district court affirmed that decision. This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶6] The applicable standard of review is that set out in Dale v. S & S Builders, LLC, 2008 WY 84, ¶¶ 22-25, 188 P.3d 554, 561 (Wyo. 2008):

[T]he substantial evidence standard will be applied any time we review an evidentiary ruling. When the burdened party prevailed before the agency, we will determine if substantial evidence exists to support the finding for that party by considering whether there is relevant evidence in the entire record which a reasonable mind might accept in support of the agency's conclusions. If the hearing examiner determines that the burdened party failed to meet his burden of proof, we will decide whether there is substantial evidence to support the agency's decision to reject the evidence offered by the burdened party by considering whether that conclusion was contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence in the record as a whole. See, Wyo. Consumer Group v. Public Serv. Comm'n of Wyo., 882 P.2d 858, 860-61 (Wyo.1994); Spiegel, 549 P.2d at 1178 (discussing the definition of substantial evidence as "contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence"). If, in the course of its decision making process, the agency disregards certain evidence and explains its reasons for doing so based upon determinations of credibility or other factors ...


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