IN THE MATTER OF THE WORKER'S COMPENSATION CLAIM OF MICHAEL VINSON:
MICHAEL VINSON, Appellee (Petitioner). TATA CHEMICALS SODA ASH PARTNERS, LTD, Appellant (Respondent),
from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable
Nena James, Judge.
Representing Appellant: Stephen Kline, Kline, McCorkle, LLP,
Representing Appellee: Donna Domonkos, Domonkos Law Office,
LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Michael Vinson injured his hand on his employer's
premises and contracted a serious bacterial infection. His
employer, Tata Chemicals Soda Ash Partners, Ltd. (Tata),
contested whether the infection was a compensable injury
under the Wyoming Worker's Compensation Act. The Office
of Administrative Hearings (OAH) concluded Mr. Vinson's
infection was not compensable. Thirty-five days later, Mr.
Vinson filed a petition for review in district court, and the
district court reversed the OAH order. Tata appeals, arguing
the district court lacked jurisdiction. We remand with
instructions to determine whether excusable neglect extended
the time to file the petition for review.
Did the district court have jurisdiction over Mr.
Vinson's petition for review?
Michael Vinson worked for Tata, a trona mining company, for
over 30 years. One Friday, Mr. Vinson scraped his knuckle on
a locker as he was getting ready to leave the mine. By
Sunday, he was incoherent and his "hand and arm were all
swollen up almost to the elbow." Mr. Vinson's family
took him to the local hospital where he was quickly life
flighted to a hospital in Salt Lake City. The scrape on Mr.
Vinson's hand had developed a serious infection called
necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating
bacteria. The infection caused septic shock and acute kidney
injury, and required Mr. Vinson to undergo aggressive
antibiotic therapy, multiple surgical debridements, and skin
Mr. Vinson applied for worker's compensation benefits,
and the Department of Workforce Services, Workers'
Compensation Division (Division) deemed his injury
compensable. Tata objected, arguing Mr. Vinson's medical
condition did not meet the definition of injury in Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 27-14-102(a)(xi). The Division referred the claim
to the OAH for a contested case hearing, and the parties
moved for summary judgment. On January 30, 2018, the OAH
served an order concluding Mr. Vinson's injuries were not
compensable because they were "excluded from coverage by
the communicable disease exclusion." Wyo. Stat. Ann.
On March 6, 2018, Mr. Vinson petitioned the district court
for judicial review. Without addressing the timeliness of the
petition, the district court reversed the OAH order,
concluding that Mr. Vinson's "infection was a
compensable consequence of the original work-related scrape
injury." Tata timely appealed.
The existence of subject matter jurisdiction is a question of
law that "we review de novo pursuant to the
inherent power, and the duty, to address jurisdictional
defects on appeal." Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v.
Dep't of Revenue, 2007 WY 62, ¶ 6, 155 P.3d
1041, 1043 (Wyo. 2007) (alteration and quotation marks
omitted) (quoting Sheridan Ret. Partners v. City of
Sheridan, 950 P.2d 554, 556 (Wyo. 1997)). The decision
of whether to extend the time for filing a petition for
review based on a showing of excusable ...