Whiteman v. WKR'S SAFETY & COMP. DIV., 97-324.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation984 P.2d 1079
Docket NumberNo. 97-324.,97-324.
PartiesJanice WHITEMAN, Appellant (Petitioner), v. WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Respondent).
Decision Date18 May 1999

984 P.2d 1079

Janice WHITEMAN, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
WYOMING WORKERS' SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT, STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Respondent)

No. 97-324.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

May 18, 1999.


984 P.2d 1080
Donald L. Painter, Casper, WY., Representing Appellant

William U. Hill, Attorney General, Gerald W. Laska, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Bernard P. Haggerty, Assistant Attorney General, Representing Appellee.

Before LEHMAN, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, GOLDEN, and TAYLOR,1 JJ.

LEHMAN, Chief Justice.

Janice Whiteman appeals a district court order affirming the Office of Administrative Hearing's (OAH) denial of attorney fees. Because the attorney was never appointed by the OAH, denial of attorney fees was proper. We affirm.

ISSUES

Appellant Whiteman states the issues as:

I. Whether the Order entered by the hearing examiner [on] March 27, 1997[,] complies with W.S. § 16-3-110 generally requiring Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law separately stated.
II. Whether the same Order is arbitrary and capricious.

Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, as appellee, states the issues as:

A. Was the language of the order denying fees proper?
B. Was the denial of fees within the Hearing Examiner's discretion and in accordance with law?

FACTS

While working in 1991, Janice Whiteman was injured; and, as a result, she received worker's compensation benefits. On January 23, 1996, the Division notified Whiteman that she would no longer receive temporary total disability benefits because she had attained an ascertainable loss and was assigned a permanent impairment rating on October 30, 1995. In its Final Determination letter, the Division notified Whiteman that she had until February 16, 1996, to object to its determination and request a hearing. The record bears no indication that Whiteman objected; however, on February 1, 1996, Whiteman filed a Motion for Appointment of Counsel with the OAH, listing Mr. Donald Painter as her attorney. The OAH never entered an order granting Whiteman's Motion for the Appointment of Counsel.

In a letter dated February 6, 1996, the Division notified Whiteman of her permanent award amount and informed Whiteman that she had until March 4, 1996, to object to the determination by requesting a hearing. Whiteman did not object to this determination, but rather accepted the award amount by signing and returning the letter to the Division on February 23, 1996.

In an August 8, 1996 Final Determination letter, the Division denied Whiteman's request for payment of a $58.97 bill for prescription

984 P.2d 1081
drugs. This letter notified Whiteman that she had until September 4, 1996, to disagree with the determination by requesting a hearing. On August 28, 1996, Whiteman took advantage of her right to contest the determination; she filed an objection and requested a hearing. The Division referred the matter to the OAH and requested a small claims hearing, notifying Whiteman that, in a small claims hearing, "[n]o attorney fees or other costs shall be allowed by the hearing examiner on behalf of or for any party. In addition, the attorney general's office shall not represent or directly assist the division in the preparation for a hearing under this statute." Whiteman did not object to the Division's decision to use a small claims hearing

On February 7, 1997, Whiteman submitted a Motion for Award of Attorney's Fee in the amount of $480.64 for attorney services from January 4, 1996, to January 30, 1997, which Whiteman later amended to include fees for January 25, 1996, to September 16, 1996, only. The OAH denied the motion for attorney fees and costs on March 26, 1997. The district court affirmed the OAH's order, from which Whiteman now appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This court reviews agency decisions by looking at the record as a whole. Juroszek v. City of Sheridan Bd. of Adjustment, 948 P.2d 1370, 1373 (Wyo.1997). Judicial review of an administrative decision is limited by W.R.A.P. 12.09(a) to those matters that are specified in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114(c) (Michie 1997). Matter of Everheart, 957 P.2d 847, 851 (Wyo.1998). Section 16-3-114(c) provides that

the court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party and due account shall be taken of the rule of prejudicial error. The reviewing court shall: * * *
(ii) Hold unlawful and set aside agency action, findings and conclusions found to be:
(A) Arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law; [or]
* * *
(E) Unsupported by substantial evidence in a case reviewed on the record of an agency hearing provided by statute.

When a case initiated in an administrative agency comes before this court on appeal, we accord no special deference to the decision of the district court. Instead, we review the case as if it had come directly to us from the agency. Manning v. State ex rel. Worker's Compensation Div., 938 P.2d 870, 872 (Wyo. 1997); Nellis v. Dep't of Transp., 932 P.2d 741, 743 (Wyo.1997). However, this court will defer to an agency's findings of fact if they are supported by substantial evidence. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-114(c)(ii)(E); Clark v. State ex rel. Worker's Safety & Compensation Div., 934 P.2d 1269, 1272 (Wyo.1997). We have defined substantial evidence as "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind can accept as adequate to support an agency's conclusion." Casper Oil Co. v. Evenson, 888 P.2d 221, 224 (Wyo.1995). Agency action is arbitrary and capricious if it is "willful and unreasonable, without consideration and in disregard of...

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  • Amoco Production Co. v. Dept. of Revenue
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    ...This Court will defer to an agency's findings of fact if they are supported by substantial evidence. Whiteman v. Workers' Safety and Comp. Div., 984 P.2d 1079, 1081 (Wyo.1999). Substantial evidence is "relevant evidence that a reasonable mind can accept as adequate to support an agency's co......
  • Town of Evansville Police Dep't v. Porter, s. S–09–0178
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    ...so as to authorize judicial review of agency inaction under the Administrative Procedure Act. Whiteman v. Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, 984 P.2d 1079, 1082 (Wyo.1999). That legal principle has application to the matter hereunder review where we have agency inaction in t......
  • Morris v. State ex rel. Wy. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div.
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    ...affect a significant property interest.” Pfeil, 908 P.2d at 961;see also Whiteman v. Wyoming Workers' Safety and Compensation Division, Department of Employment, 984 P.2d 1079, 1083 (Wyo.1999). The procedures outlined in the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act are designed to provide parti......
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    ...the administrative decision. We have previously accepted findings of fact that were "sparse." Whiteman v. Workers' Safety and Compensation Div., Dep't of Employment, 984 P.2d 1079, 1083 (Wyo.1999). Here, however, the record includes over 1200 pages of transcript and over 60 exhibits. The co......
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