McCall-Presse v. State of Wyoming ex rel., Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, No. S-10-0186 (Wyo. 02/25/11).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to benefits because she did not prove a causal connection between her injury and her employment.
What it means: In Wyoming, a lack of evidence demonstrating the existence of a chemical cloud will undermine a worker's claim for injures related to chemical exposure.
Summary: A worker was driving to meet a client when she noticed a chemical cloud being pulled through the car's vents. She said she inhaled some of the chemicals and experienced immediate problems with her eyes, skin, nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, and lungs. She pulled her car over to the side of the highway, rolled down her windows to get fresh air, and flushed her eyes out with water. She did not notice any other cars pulling over. She did not call anyone for help, and she did not seek medical treatment that day. Upon her return the next day, she called poison control, which advised her to go to the emergency room. Her treating physician diagnosed her with possible gas exposure and inhalation. The worker sought benefits. The Wyoming Supreme Court held that she was not entitled to benefits because she did not prove a causal connection between her injury and her employment.
The court said that doctors' diagnoses proved the existence of an injury but failed to prove a causal connection. Neither of the doctors could say it was more probable than not that the injury arose out of the course of her employment. Medical records by another doctor were based on unsupported speculation because of a lack of a chemical capable of inflicting the injury, an incomplete medical history, and a lack of corroborating evidence to support the worker's self-reported injury. A neuropathic doctor's opinion was unpersuasive because she was not a medical doctor and could not explain her testing process.
The court said the worker's credibility was vitally important to prove a causal connection. The court noted the worker's "questionable behavior" following the alleged incident. No evidence was presented as to the location of the incident or possible sources of the chemical cloud. Additionally, the worker's vehicle and clothes were not tested to try to determine the presence of chemicals.
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March 31, 2011
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