Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Worker's Compensation Claim of Porter

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 13, 2017

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

         Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge

          Sky D Phifer, Phifer Law Office, Lander, WY. Representing Appellant.

          Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Daniel E. White, Deputy Attorney General; Michael J. Finn, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Benjamin Fischer, Assistant Attorney General. Representing Appellee.

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

          HILL, Justice.

         [¶1] In July 2014, Lea Porter, through her employer, submitted an injury report to the Wyoming Workers' Compensation Division (Division) by which she reported an injury to her left knee that occurred while she was performing a task that required her to be in a squatting position. In August 2014, the Division issued a final determination informing Ms. Porter that the Division would not approve payment of benefits because it had determined her injury was not a work-related injury. Ms. Porter did not object to that final determination or request a hearing. Ms. Porter did, however, object to an October 2014 final determination that denied payment of costs related to an MRI of her left knee.

         [¶2] Ms. Porter's objection to the October 2014 denial of benefits was referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The OAH granted the Division summary judgment, ruling that Ms. Porter could not challenge the denial of benefits for the MRI because she did not object to the Division's August 2014 determination that her injury was not a work-related injury. The district court affirmed the OAH ruling, and Ms. Porter appealed to this Court. We reverse and remand.

         ISSUES

         [¶3] Lea Porter presents three issues on appeal, which she states as:

1. Was the Final Determination of August 26, 2014 void as being without observance of law as it was not issued in a timely manner pursuant to statute?
2. Was the Final Determination of August 26, 2014 void as being without observance of law for not following the statute requiring a statement of reasons?
3. Did the Division abuse its discretion in not making a redetermination to award benefits under W.S. § 27-14-601(k)(vi)?

         The Division presents essentially the same issues but states them differently:

I. Under Wyoming's Workers' Compensation scheme, the Division's final determination is not subject to administrative or judicial review if a claimant does not timely file a written request for a hearing to contest a Final Determination denying her eligibility for benefits. Can Porter obtain judicial review of the Final Determination?
II. Wyoming law forbids judicial or administrative review of a claim for workers' compensation if a timely written request for hearing is not filed. However, the Division may, in its own discretion, make a redetermination within one year of the original determination. Is the Division required to make a redetermination and allow Porter to litigate the merits of her claim, despite her failure to timely file a written request for a hearing?

         [¶4] Given that the parties' dispute, both here and as it was argued to the OAH and district court, centers on the preclusive effect of the August 2014 determination, we find the single dispositive issue may be stated as: Whether Ms. Porter was collaterally estopped from challenging the Division's October 2014 final determination because she failed to timely object to the Division's August 2014 compensability determination.[1]

         FACTS

         [¶5] Lea Porter works as a nutrition specialist at the Wyoming Life Resource Center in Lander, Wyoming. Her duties include meal preparation, serving meals, and clean-up of the dining room after meals. On July 18, 2014, Ms. Porter had only recently returned to full-time work, having been off work or working a reduced schedule while recovering from knee replacement surgery on her right knee. At about 5:30 p.m. that evening, near the end of her shift, Ms. Porter injured her left knee while performing her dining room clean-up duties. She described what happened:

Q. It was the evening meal that had been served?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And what was this table or thing that you were getting under to drain?
A. The entrée station.
Q. What's the entrée station look like?
A. It's metal. It's wide. It has hot wells where you
serve the food.
Q. So kind of like where you scoop the food out at
a buffet or something like that?
A. Yep-yes.
Q. * * * Does hot water or something circulate through this to keep the food warm?
A. Yes. We have to open and close a lever underneath of it and fill it with water, and it has temperatures to keep the food at the right temperature.
Q. So the table is attached to the building's plumbing?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And hot water can be taken in to heat the food in it?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Which fills up wells that need to be drained?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And that's what you were doing?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Okay. And that's a manual operation. It does not - you can't push a button somewhere? You have to physically get under the table?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. All right. The wells were empty, the meal had been completed, and you're just under there draining the water off so that the table is prepared for the next meal?
A. Yes.
Q. What did you feel in your left knee? What did it feel like?
A. Well, I was just back at work full time, and I had to reach under there. And because of my surgery, I wasn't able to get on my knees. I had to turn and twist and lift myself up, and it like felt like a ripping down my leg and my knee area immediately.
Q. Sort of down the front or the back of your shin?
A. Down the front of - yeah, on the inside.
Q. Front on the inside?
A. Yes.
Q. Of your shin. Okay. Inside being the one that's closest to the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.