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

Supreme Court of Wyoming

August 13, 2013

In the Matter of the Worker's Compensation Claim of Joseph O. HAYES, Appellant (Petitioner/Claimant),
v.
STATE of Wyoming, ex rel., WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, Appellee (Respondent).

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Representing Appellant: Lynn Boak of Lynn Boak, Attorney at Law, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; John D. Rossetti, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kelly Roseberry, Assistant Attorney General.

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

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] Joseph O. Hayes, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, sought worker's compensation benefits for treatment of pulmonary and other symptoms he believed were related to a workplace accident. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) upheld the Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division's (Division) denial of benefits, and the district court affirmed the OAH decision. Mr. Hayes appeals to this Court, claiming the OAH erred by failing to find a causal connection between his work injury and his later medical conditions. He asserts he presented sufficient evidence of the causal connection by his own testimony and the opinion of a registered nurse. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Although Mr. Hayes phrases the issues differently, the issues requiring resolution in this case are:

1. Whether there was substantial evidence to support the OAH conclusion that Mr. Hayes failed to prove the causal connection between his job-related broken hand and his later symptoms requiring hospitalization.
2. Whether the OAH properly disregarded Mr. Hayes' expert's report.
3. Whether medical testimony was required to establish causation.

The State's statement of the issue contains the same general questions.

FACTS

[¶ 3] Mr. Hayes was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was a few months old. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease of the exocrine glands that affects the pancreas, respiratory system and sweat glands. " It is marked by the production of abnormally viscous mucous by the affected glands, usually resulting in chronic respiratory infections and impaired pancreatic function." The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary (2002). As a child, Mr. Hayes had frequent bouts of pneumonia associated with his condition. When he became older, he used regular strenuous exercise to keep his lungs relatively free of mucous and, therefore, less susceptible to infection. In fact, prior to the incident at issue here, Mr. Hayes had not had any serious lung issues for many years. Although Mr. Hayes exercised regularly,

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he disregarded his physicians' recommendations to use " daily Flutter therapy with compression and nebulizer" to aid in keeping his airways open.

[¶ 4] Mr. Hayes was employed as a police officer by the Guernsey, Wyoming police department. He was required to be certified in the use of a taser and on August 18, 2010, underwent a training session which included him being " tased." When the taser was energized, he fell from a kneeling position onto a mat and his chest hit his left hand. He went to the emergency room, where x-rays showed his left hand was broken. The emergency room doctor prescribed pain medication and directed him to consult with an orthopedic surgeon, who recommended surgery.

[¶ 5] On August 21, 2010, Mr. Hayes went back to the emergency room complaining of pain in his chest. A chest x-ray did not show any rib fractures, although there were findings consistent with cystic fibrosis. He was diagnosed with a chest contusion and prescribed additional pain medication. The next day, August 22, he returned to the emergency room complaining of " out of control" pain, and received more pain medication. Mr. Hayes underwent surgery on August 24, 2010, to pin the fractured hand.

[¶ 6] On September 11, 2010, Mr. Hayes returned to the emergency room with an " awful" metallic taste causing him to feel nauseous. The emergency room physician thought the metallic taste was coming from a sinus infection or the pins in his hand. Mr. Hayes was prescribed antibiotics for the sinus infection.

[¶ 7] On September 17, 2010, Mr. Hayes again visited the emergency room with complaints of joint pain, chest tightness, chills, fever, weakness, and coughing. Chest x-rays showed evidence of cystic fibrosis but were " stable from August." He was admitted to the hospital, and Jeffrey A. Cecil, M.D. treated him for the joint pain and gave him additional antibiotics and respiratory treatments. Mr. Hayes' condition improved and he was discharged on September 21, 2010, with a diagnosis of " pneumonia, sinusitis with cystic fibrosis."

[¶ 8] Although the Division granted benefits for the medical treatment associated with his broken hand, it denied benefits for his hospitalization and associated treatment, stating that treatment for pneumonia and cystic fibrosis was not related to his work injury. Mr. Hayes disagreed with the Division's decision and requested a hearing. He stated his ailments were the result of being unable ...


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