IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF: KAREN HARDY, Appellant (Petitioner),
STATE OF WYOMING, ex rel., DEPARTMENT OF WORKFORCE SERVICES, WORKERS' COMPENSATION DIVISION, Appellee (Respondent).
from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John
R. Perry, Judge
Representing Appellant: Matthew R. Sorenson of Daly &
Sorenson, LLC, Gillette, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Daniel E. White, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J.
Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Benjamin Eliazar
Fischer, Assistant Attorney General.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Karen Hardy appeals the district court's order affirming
the Office of Administrative Hearing's (OAH) decision
denying workers' compensation benefits to Ms. Hardy for
an injury to her lower back. Ms. Hardy argues that she is
entitled to benefits under the second compensable injury
rule. We affirm.
Ms. Hardy raises one issue in this appeal:
Whether the district court erred in affirming the
administrative agency's finding that [Ms. Hardy's]
injury was not compensable[.]
On April 3, 2013, Ms. Hardy was working at the Home Depot in
Gillette, Wyoming. She was moving bricks and large bags of
potting soil when she felt pain in her left shoulder and
back. On April 11, 2013, she sought medical treatment for
that pain at the Campbell County Memorial Hospital Walk-In
Clinic. The physician's assistant who treated her
prescribed medication for the pain and suggested she come
back in a week. Ms. Hardy returned to the clinic on April 18,
2013, and informed the physician's assistant that her
pain was improving. The physician's assistant instructed
Ms. Hardy to continue icing her shoulder and taking ibuprofen
On June 18, 2013, Ms. Hardy returned to the walk-in clinic,
this time seeking treatment for a different work injury. Ms.
Hardy explained that on May 11, 2013, she tripped and fell at
Home Depot and subsequently had been suffering from right
knee pain for five weeks. She also stated she had been
terminated from her employment with Home Depot.
Significantly, the progress note indicates that Ms. Hardy
denied suffering from any back pain on that day. Thereafter,
Ms. Hardy was treated by Dr. John Dunn at Powder River
Orthopedics and Spine, who ultimately performed a right knee
arthroscopy, partial medial menisectomy. The record contains
notes from Ms. Hardy's four different office visits with
Dr. Dunn between July 22, 2013, and September 19, 2013, and
in none of those notes does Dr. Dunn indicate that Ms. Hardy
had any complaints of back pain. On September 27, 2013, Ms.
Hardy again returned to the walk-in clinic seeking treatment
for pain and swelling in her knee post surgery. The progress
note states she denied any back pain at that visit.
On May 14, 2015, Ms. Hardy sought treatment at the walk-in
clinic for low back pain she had been suffering for six days.
According to the progress note, Ms. Hardy said she injured
her back by bending, twisting, and lifting at work on May 9,
2015. At this point in time, she was working in the produce
department and as a cashier at Don's Supermarket in
Gillette. Deborah Johnston, the physician's assistant who
treated Ms. Hardy, instructed her to refrain from heavy
lifting for one week, to alternate heat and ice multiple
times a day, and to return to the clinic if the symptoms did
not improve. She returned to the walk-in clinic on May 22,
2015, and the progress note from that visit states she
received a work injury on May 15, 2015. Ms. Johnston also
noted that when she entered the treatment room, Ms. Hardy was
crying, in pain, and stated she did not know what to do. She
stated she did not have health insurance, could not quit her
job, and that she called the Wyoming Workers'
Compensation Division (the Division) and was told she could
not reopen her claim from 2013. In addition to prescribing
medication and advising on how to care for herself, Ms.
Johnston suggested that Ms. Hardy contact the Division again
to try to get her old claim re-opened. She also suggested
that Ms. Hardy seek treatment from an orthopedist.
On May 28, 2015, Ms. Hardy saw Dr. Nathan Simpson at Powder
River Orthopedics and Spine. She informed Dr. Simpson that
her back hurt from an injury she sustained on April 11, 2013,
while working at Home Depot. She stated that since the injury
she had experienced continually worsening pain. She did not
mention that she had been injured at Don's Supermarket in
May 2015 or that she had sought treatment at the walk-in
clinic earlier in the month. Dr. Simpson recommended that Ms.
Hardy receive an MRI of her lumbar spine. From the MRI, Dr.
Simpson determined that Ms. Hardy was suffering from a small
annular tear and facet degenerative joint disease.
The bills from Ms. Hardy's 2015 doctor visits were
submitted to the Division. The Division denied payment for
all of the bills on the basis that Ms. Hardy's May 9,
2015 back injury was not related to the injuries she
sustained on April 3 or May 11, 2013. Ms. Hardy objected to
the Division's final determination and requested a
hearing with the OAH.
At the hearing, the OAH hearing examiner considered all of
the medical records, Ms. Hardy's testimony, and the
depositions of Ms. Johnston and Dr. Simpson. The hearing
examiner determined that Ms. Hardy had failed to prove by a
preponderance of the evidence a causal connection between her
April 3, 2013 work-related injury and her 2015 back injury.
Ms. Hardy appealed the decision to the district court, and it
affirmed the hearing examiner's determination. Ms. Hardy
timely appealed to this Court.