IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF: JEFFREY BAKER, 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: Mark D. Sullivan, Mark D. Sullivan,
P.C., Wilson, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General;
Benjamin E. Fischer, Assistant Attorney General.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Jeffrey Baker injured his right shoulder at work, and his
shoulder surgery was covered by the Wyoming Workers'
Compensation Division (Division). Mr. Baker later requested
temporary total disability benefits related to a neck injury
he claimed occurred with the shoulder injury. The Division
denied his request. On review, the Medical Commission Hearing
Panel (Commission) denied his claim on the grounds that he
failed to prove a causal relationship between his neck injury
and the work-related accident. The district court upheld the
Commission's decision and Mr. Baker appealed. We affirm.
We rephrase the issues as:
1. Was the Commission's decision that Mr. Baker did not
meet his burden of establishing the causal relationship
between his neck injury and his work-related accident
supported by substantial evidence?
2. Was the Commission's decision arbitrary and
Mr. Baker worked as a laborer for Van Ewing Construction,
Inc. when he was injured while carrying a
several-hundred-pound log. He went to the Campbell County
Memorial Hospital (CCMH) walk-in clinic complaining of
right-shoulder pain, numbness, and tingling in his arm.
Shoulder x-rays taken at CCMH on the date of injury were
negative for a fracture or other abnormality, and Mr. Baker
was prescribed pain medication and a sling for his right arm.
Due to continued pain in his right shoulder, Mr. Baker saw
Joseph Allegretto, M.D., an orthopedist. Mr. Baker complained
of "moderate to severe" "right shoulder pain
in the area of the a.c. joint." Dr. Allegretto performed
a physical examination, including an examination of Mr.
Baker's head and neck, and reported that the head and
neck area was normal and not producing injury or damage. Dr.
Allegretto ordered an MRI of the right shoulder, and
prescribed physical therapy.
Mr. Baker began physical therapy on December 12, 2013, and at
his January 6, 2014 appointment with Dr. Allegretto, reported
minimal relief of his right-shoulder pain, so Dr. Allegretto
performed a corticosteroid injection into the subacromial
space of Mr. Baker's shoulder, which also provided little
relief. Mr. Baker then underwent an electrodiagnostic (EMG)
study to determine whether his continued pain originated from
carpal tunnel syndrome or a pinched nerve in the neck. The
EMG study showed evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome, but
neither a pinched nerve in the neck, nor right cervical
radiculopathy or plexopathy. As a result, Mark Murphy, M.D.,
an orthopedic surgeon, performed a right shoulder
arthroscopic Mumford distal clavicle excision, right carpal
tunnel release, and right shoulder arthroscopic subacromial
decompression, which was covered by the Division.
Mr. Baker continued to report numbness and tingling in his
right arm as well as pain radiating into his right shoulder.
A second EMG study found no evidence of right cervical
radiculopathy, plexopathy, or entrapment neuropathy, and
indicated Mr. Baker's carpal tunnel condition had been
repaired. Dr. Murphy then ordered a cervical MRI which showed
mild posterior disc bulging at C4-C5, minimal posterior disc
bulging at C5-C6, and marked degenerative disc disease with
extensive posterior disc bulging at C6-C7. Dr. Murphy
referred Mr. Baker to Mahesh Karandikar, M.D., a
neurosurgeon, who initially recommended a C4-C7 anterior
cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). The Division denied
Dr. Karandikar's preauthorization request for the C4-C7
ACDF on the basis that the procedure was not related to a
work injury. Dr. Karandikar submitted a second
preauthorization request to the Division, limiting the
surgery to a C6-C7 ACDF. The Division again denied the
request because it was not work related. Dr. Karandikar
ultimately performed a C5-C7 ACDF on April 30,
Prior to the April 30, 2015 ACDF surgery, Mr. Baker requested
temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Dr. Karandikar
certified Mr. Baker as temporarily totally disabled between
September 23 and November 23, 2014, and designated the
disability as related to the cervical spine. The Division
denied the benefits, and Mr. Baker objected to the
determination and requested a hearing. After an evidentiary
hearing, the Commission determined that Mr. Baker had
"failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that
his cervical condition was causally related to the work
injury on November 4, 2013." The district court affirmed
the Commission's ruling, and Mr. Baker timely appealed to
This Court reviews a district court's decision on an
administrative decision as though the case came directly from
the administrative agency. Price v. State ex rel.
Dep't of Workforce Servs., Workers' Comp. Div.,
2017 WY 16, ¶ 7, 388 P.3d 786, 789 (Wyo. 2017). Our
review is governed by the Wyoming Administrative Procedure
Act (W.A.P.A.), which provides:
(c) To the extent necessary to make a decision and when
presented, the reviewing court shall decide all relevant
questions of law, interpret constitutional and statutory
provisions, and determine the meaning or applicability of the
terms of an agency action. In making the following
determinations, the court shall review the whole record or
those parts of it cited by a party ...