Case name: Herrera v. State of Wyoming, ex rel., Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-09-0191 (Wyo. 07/28/10).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that a cement finisher was entitled to benefits for a right hand injury. The cement finisher's prescription for an antidepressant was intended to treat his physical injuries.
What it means: In Wyoming, when an antidepressant is prescribed to treat a compensable physical injury, benefits can be awarded. It is not necessary to show that the mental injury was caused by a compensable physical injury, occurred subsequently or simultaneously with the physical injury, or was established by clear and convincing evidence.
Summary: A cement finisher was injured when a coworker struck his right hand with a sledgehammer. He underwent multiple surgeries, and his finger was amputated. His physician prescribed an antidepressant for pain, numbness and depression. The cement finisher testified that when he stopped taking the medication, his pain increased and caused his blood pressure to rise, and when he resumed taking the prescription, his physical symptoms lessened. The parties argued whether the antidepressant was prescribed to treat the cement finisher's mental injuries or physical injury. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that he was entitled to benefits because the medication was being used to treat a physical injury.
The Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division asserted that mental injuries are compensable only when there is evidence that a psychiatrist or psychologist diagnosed the injuries. The division also argued that the cement finisher had the burden of proving the antidepressant was for treatment of physical injuries and he failed to do so because he did not present medical evidence. The cement finisher saw a mental health counselor twice, but the counselor noted that he was coping well. The court found that the mental injury exclusion did not apply. It stated that the division did not present evidence to discredit the cement finisher's testimony and that his testimony was corroborated by medical records that he was treated with the antidepressant for pain and numbness as well as depression.
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October 25, 2010
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