Taylor v. State of Wyoming, No. S-09-0170 (Wyo. 06/09/10).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that collateral estoppel did not bar the Medical Commission from considering evidence of a previous injury that was presented at a prior hearing.
What it means: Collateral estoppel is a legal doctrine that prevents a person from re-litigating an issue. It does not prevent the court from considering evidence of matters which occurred before a previous hearing but were not considered in the hearing.
Summary: A housekeeper injured his left shoulder and back while emptying water buckets for a nursing home. The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division paid for his chiropractic care for a few years until it denied his claims and stated the treatment was not due to his work injury. At a hearing, the housekeeper was found to be entitled to benefits for chiropractic care. Years later, the workers' compensation claims were again denied. At a new hearing on the question of whether the chiropractic treatment was related to the work injury, the commission considered evidence of an injury that occurred before the first hearing. The housekeeper claimed collateral estoppel barred the commission from considering that evidence. The Wyoming Supreme Court decided that collateral estoppel did not bar the commission from considering that evidence. Therefore, the workers' compensation benefits were denied.
The court noted that collateral estoppel can apply in administrative cases. To decide whether collateral estoppel applied, the court had to determine whether the issues presented in each action were identical. The court concluded that the issues were not identical. The first hearing regarded whether the housekeeper's chiropractic treatment at that time was related to his work injury. The second hearing held years later was to determine whether his treatment at that time was related to the work injury.
The court also noted that the commission did not rely primarily on the evidence of the housekeeper's prior injury and there was substantial evidence to justify the denial of benefits.
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September 9, 2010
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