Wyo. Supreme Court Upholds Workers’ Comp for Widow

August 4, 2008

The Wyoming Supreme Court has upheld workers’ compensation death benefits for the widow of a man who was paralyzed by a workplace injury and who died years later of pneumonia.

David Fisher was paralyzed by an accident while working for a sugar company in 1993.

In 2005, Fisher’s wheelchair became trapped in a hallway during a house fire and he suffered smoke inhalation. He died of pneumonia 19 days later.

A workers’ compensation hearing officer and Big Horn County District Judge Gary Hartman ruled against Fisher’s widow, Wilma Fisher, in her claim for death benefits. Wilma Fisher appealed to the state Supreme Court.

In a ruling written by Justice William Hill, the Supreme Court noted that Fisher’s chronic weakness from being paraplegic made him unable to recover from the smoke inhalation.

“It is uncontradicted that it was the paraplegia that resulted in Mr. Fisher’s death and that but for the effects of his workplace injury, he most likely would have fully recovered from the effects and consequences of the smoke inhalation,” Hill wrote.

The justices sent the case back with orders to pay death benefits to Wilma Fisher. The amount of the benefits was not specified.

State law bases workers’ comp death benefits on the state’s average monthly wage. The benefits are paid for up to 80 months after the worker’s death.

Information from: Star-Tribune, www.trib.com

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