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In re Worker's Compensation Claim of Hood

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 28, 2016

IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF: TOMMY HOOD, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES, WORKERS' COMPENSATION DIVISION, Appellee (Respondent).

         Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable Daniel L. Forgey, Judge

          Representing Appellant/Petitioner: Stephenson D. Emery of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C., Casper, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee/Respondent: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; John D. Rossetti, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Kelly Shaw, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          KAUTZ, Justice.

         [¶1] Tommy Hood suffered a neck injury at work in 2008. The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division (Division) awarded him benefits related to that injury, and paid his associated medical bills. In April 2011, Mr. Hood began experiencing short losses of consciousness, known as "syncope, " which he attributes to treatment of his neck injury. The Division paid for attempts to diagnose the cause of Mr. Hood's black outs, and paid for treatment of injuries to his back, thumb, wrist and ear suffered when he fell during syncope events. Mr. Hood then sought Division approval for lower back surgery to treat another injury he received from such a fall. The Division denied approval, and the Medical Commission (Commission) upheld the Division's determination that Mr. Hood had not proven that the need for lower back surgery was directly related to the 2008 neck injury. Mr. Hood appealed to the district court, which affirmed the Commission. He now appeals the district court's determination.

         [¶2] We conclude substantial evidence supports the Commission's decision and the Commission appropriately considered the evidence before it. We further find that the Division's prior uncontested awards of benefits related to syncope do not relieve Mr. Hood of the burden of proving his new claim was directly related to a compensable injury. Consequently, we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶3] Mr. Hood states the issues as follows:

I. Whether the Medical Commission erred as a matter of law in refusing to estop the Division from denying a preauthorization request for lumbar spine surgery.
II. Whether the Medical Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in ignoring Hood's testimony about causation.

         The Division phrases the issues as:

I. Did the Division's decision to pay Hood some benefits estop it from denying future benefits related to syncope?
II. Did the Medical Commission act arbitrarily and capriciously when it denied Hood benefits after determining that the benefits requested for injuries sustained during a syncopal ...

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