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In the Matter of the Worker' S Compensation Claim of v. State of Wyoming

October 18, 2012

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



Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge

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

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN,*fn1 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] The appellant received disability benefits due to a work-related injury. Those benefits were terminated as a result of the appellant's incarceration. Following his release, the appellant applied for reinstatement of the benefits. Although that application was initially denied, benefits were awarded following a contested case hearing. At that time, the appellant filed one application for retroactive benefits for the period during which his prior claim was contested and two additional applications for separate periods of prospective benefits. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) denied all three claims for failure to comply with the Wyoming Worker's Compensation Act. The district court affirmed the denial of two of those applications and the appellant now appeals those denials. Because the applications did not comply with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-501(b) (LexisNexis 2011), we affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Did the hearing examiner err as a matter of law in determining that the Wyoming Worker's Compensation Act requires a separate examination for each period of certification of Temporary Total Disability benefits?

FACTS

[¶3] On March 13, 2006, the appellant slipped on ice and injured his back in a work-related accident. Following this injury, the appellant applied to the Wyoming Workers' Safety & Compensation Division (Division) and received Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits until he became incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. Following his parole, the appellant sought to have his benefits reinstated. On January 20 and 27, 2009, the appellant saw Dr. Cook who assessed the appellant's injuries and certified him disabled. The Division refused to pay due to a lack of evidence that the appellant's pain was a result of the 2006 injury. On September 17, 2009, following a contested case hearing, the OAH reversed that denial and awarded benefits to the appellant for the period January 27, 2009 through March 27, 2009.

[¶4] Following that reversal, the appellant applied for one period of retroactive benefits for the period when his disability determination was contested, and two periods of prospective benefits. On October 14, 2009, the appellant applied for benefits for the period October 15 through November 15, 2009. That application indicated April 2, 2009, as the date of the appellant's last doctor's examination. On October 27, 2009, the appellant applied for benefits for November 15 through December 15, 2009, with March 27, 2009, as the last date of an examination. Finally, on October 27, 2009, the appellant also applied for retroactive benefits for March 27 through "present," citing March 27, 2009, as the date of the last doctor's examination. All three claims were initially denied.

[¶5] The OAH found that the appellant's claims failed to satisfy the procedural requirements for an application for TTD benefits. Particularly, the claims did not comply with Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 27-14-404(d)(i) and 27-14-501(b) (LexisNexis 2011). The applicable portion of subsection (d)(i) reads as follows:

(d) . . . Benefits under subsection (a) of this section shall not be paid if:

(i) An employee or his personal representative fails to file a claim for benefits within thirty (30) days after the first day immediately succeeding the first thirty (30) days of any certified period of temporary total disability[.]

Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-404(d)(i). Regarding the application for retroactive benefits for the certified period beginning March 27, the OAH found that there was no evidence that the TTD certification had been filed within sixty days of March 27. The OAH found that the appellant had not been examined for at least six months prior to the October 15, 2009, certification and, therefore, the application was properly denied by the Division.

[¶6] The OAH also found that the appellant's two applications for prospective benefits did not meet the procedural requirements of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-14-501(b), ...


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