IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF: VALERIE PRICE, Appellant (Petitioner),
STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES, WORKERS' COMPENSATION DIVISION, Appellee (Respondent).
from the District Court of Fremont County The Honorable
Norman E. Young, Judge
Phifer, Phifer Law Office, Lander, Wyoming.
K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Daniel E. White, Deputy
Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney
General; James M. Causey, Senior Assistant Attorney General.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Valerie Price suffered a work injury in 2004. As a result,
she had shoulder surgery in 2005, which was covered by the
Wyoming Workers' Compensation Division (Division). In
2013, Ms. Price sought benefits for surgery on the same
shoulder to treat calcific tendinitis. Her surgeon found a
hole in the fascia over the acromioclavicular joint during
the 2013 surgery, which may have occurred during the 2005
surgery. She therefore contended that the 2013 surgery was a
second compensable injury. The Division denied her claim.
After a hearing, the Medical Commission (Commission)
determined that Ms. Price had not proven the 2013 surgery was
causally related to her 2004 injury and subsequent treatment.
Ms. Price appealed, and the district court affirmed the
Commission's ruling. Ms. Price timely appealed, and we
We rephrase the issues as:
the Medical Commission Hearing Panel's conclusion that
there was no causal link between Ms. Price's work-related
injury and the need for her 2013 surgery supported by
the Medical Commission Hearing Panel improperly apply
apportionment when it concluded that Ms. Price's 2013
surgery was not compensable?
Valerie Price hurt her right shoulder at work in 2004 when
she took the trash outside and slipped and fell on ice. As a
result, in 2005 she had a right shoulder arthroscopy, which
was covered by the Division. She reported continued right
shoulder pain over the following years. In 2013, she saw Dr.
Bienz for right shoulder pain, and he diagnosed calcification
and recommended arthroscopic debridement. Dr. Bienz noted
that he had reviewed "the x-rays from 2005, and at that
time, there was not much calcification in the rotator cuff,
but on today's images, there is a significant amount of
soft tissue calcification . . . ." He observed:
The other question here, of course, is whether this is truly
related to the initial injury. She is of the impression that
her shoulder "would always be covered" because of
the initial incident that led to the [2005 surgery], however,
the fact that she had no calcific tissue in 2005 when she was
last treated by me and has since developed substantial
calcific tendinitis would suggest that this calcific tissue
developed since her last incident, not necessarily because of
her last incident.
Division denied coverage for the surgery. Dr. Bienz performed
the right shoulder arthroscopy with debridement on May 17,
2013. During the course of that surgery, he noted "a
large hole in the acromioclavicular joint where the previous
procedure apparently caused the fascia to separate or perhaps
it was never repaired." He determined that the hole was
communicating fluid to the joint surface and repaired it.
Dr. Bienz testified that he did not believe the calcific
tendinitis for which he treated Ms. Price in 2013 was caused
by her 2004 workplace injury.
Q. Okay. Now, do you have any opinion as to whether Ms.
Price's calcific tendinitis is related to her workplace
A. Well, I mean, it is -- it's certainly related. I mean,
it's in the same side. It's the same joint. You know,
there is some relationship there. But for a variety of
reasons outlined in that other note, I don't think it
likely that the fall carrying the garbage caused her to later
develop calcific tendinitis. And part of that is also even
more information than what we had in April, is that she has
subsequently developed rather significant calcific tendinitis
in the opposite shoulder, as well, which was treated by my
partner, Dr. Carlson. And you know, there was no injury to
the opposite shoulder when she fell.
Dr. Bienz testified that he assumed the hole in the
acromioclavicular joint, which he repaired, was most likely
caused by the original 2004 surgery, "unless she
developed a tear . . . after the fact . . . ." When
asked why it was necessary to do that repair, he responded:
A. I don't know if "necessary" is the right
word, but basically when you're doing a procedure,
especially on a patient like this who has pain but you're
never quite sure why they have pain, you do attempt to
correct any abnormality that you find so that you can
minimize the chance that they're going to continue to
And in this case, you know, what I noticed is that there was
fluid coming down from up there, which shouldn't be
happening, because normally that's a sealed area. And so
we went up and looked, and we did in fact find a
communication to the subacromial space through that fascial
Q. And could -- could this be causing part of the pain that
Ms. Price was suffering from that caused you to go in and ...