Raymond M. Snyder, Petitioner,
Labor Commission; Western Construction Specialties; Utah Property and Casualty Guaranty Association; and Fremont Insurance Group, Respondents.
Proceeding in this Court
Raymond M. Snyder, Petitioner Pro Se.
Grace Acosta and Alisha Giles, Attorneys for Respondent Utah
Property and Casualty Guaranty Association.
Kate A. Toomey authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele
M. Christiansen and David N. Mortensen concurred.
Petitioner Raymond M. Snyder seeks judicial review of the
Labor Commission's denial of his workers'
compensation claim for permanent partial disability (PPD)
compensation. We decline to disturb the Labor
In 1999, Snyder worked for Western Construction Specialties
(Western). In July of that year, a hammer fell
seventy feet and struck Snyder's "trapezius
region" while he worked in an elevator shaft (the
accident). As a result, Snyder experienced shoulder
and neck pain. After six days, Snyder continued to have
shoulder and neck pain, and Western sent him to Work Care for
an evaluation and x-rays. The x-rays did not reveal a
fracture, and he was diagnosed with "strains and sprains
of shoulder and upper arm" and a right shoulder
contusion in the supraspinatus muscle-a muscle in the rotator
cuff. Snyder told the physician that he had "no
tenderness along the . . . right shoulder joint."
As a result of the injury, Snyder was placed on light duty
for seven days because his employment as an iron worker
consisted of repetitive, heavy, overhead lifting. He started
attending physical therapy, which helped with the pain. In a
follow-up appointment, Snyder "denie[d] any other signs
and symptoms associated [with the accident]."
In October, after Snyder had returned to full duty, an MRI
revealed a possible partial rotator cuff tear and a
degenerative cyst in his right shoulder indicative of
"underlying arthritis." By December, Snyder's
pain had increased, and he continued to complain of
"pain across the base of the neck area across the
trapezius to the superior shoulder area." Work
Care's evaluation report stated he still had "full
range of motion to the shoulder joint" and full
strength. Snyder sought a second opinion from a physician
(Physician), who found he had "limited [range of motion]
in his neck." Physician told Snyder to begin a
"neck stabilization rehab program." The reports of
both Work Care and Physician focused on treating Snyder's
neck pain, as this was his chief complaint, though Snyder
commented that he "still ha[d] some [shoulder] pain with
In March 2000, Physician referred Snyder to a surgeon
(Surgeon) to discuss treatment. A year and a half later,
Snyder elected to have surgery to repair a possible partial
rotator cuff tear and told Surgeon "he just went on a
kayaking trip and felt that this may have aggravated [his
shoulder pain]." His preoperative report indicated that
there was "no evidence of acute fracture" and he
had "mild degenerative changes" in his right
shoulder joint. During surgery, Surgeon found the
supraspinatus tendon was partially frayed but was intact.
Surgeon and Physician each attributed the need for this
surgery to the accident. UPCIGA paid for Snyder's
shoulder surgery and subsequent physical therapy. Snyder also
received PPD compensation.
In 2003, UPCIGA referred Snyder's medical records to a
second physician (Second Physician) to determine whether the
accident caused the rotator cuff injury that required
surgery. Second Physician opined that it was "more
probable than not that the surgery [was] related to
degenerative work related condition[s] rather than the
[accident]." UPCIGA then asked Surgeon to provide
"information to determine [Snyder's] entitlement to
future benefits." Surgeon informed UPCIGA that Snyder
had reached medical stability and did not require
"further medical care . . . directly relate[d] to the
[accident]." In this same document, Surgeon also stated
that he prescribed medication for "long term
treatment" of Snyder's arthritis.
Six years went by, and in late 2010, Surgeon assessed Snyder
"with progression of degenerative arthritic changes in
his right shoulder, " leading Snyder to express concerns
that "he would not be able to go on a rafting
trip." By August 2011, Snyder's degenerative
arthritis had progressed, and Surgeon recommended a total
shoulder replacement surgery. But Snyder opted to postpone
surgery because he had two more long rafting trips planned.
In November 2012, Snyder finally had a total shoulder
replacement. He was diagnosed with end-stage osteoarthritis
and Surgeon opined that the accident medically caused the
arthritis and the need for a shoulder replacement. UPCIGA
paid for the surgery.
Two years after the total shoulder replacement surgery,
Snyder had an impairment rating evaluation and was informed
that he qualified for an "11% whole person"
impairment rating.In 2014, Snyder applied for PPD
compensation for his 11% whole person impairment rating that
resulted from his degenerative arthritis. At UPCIGA's
request, a third physician (Third Physician) performed a
medical examination to determine whether the accident caused
Snyder's arthritis. Third Physician opined that the
degeneration in Snyder's shoulder was a result of
"chronic use" which was consistent with a
"gentleman [at this] age working heavy overhead activity
all of those years developing rotator cuff disease."
Snyder received an initial hearing on his application for PPD
compensation. The administrative law judge (the ALJ) referred
the joint medical records exhibit (the MRE) to a medical
panel to resolve the dispute as to the medical cause of
Snyder's degenerative arthritis. An occupational-medicine
expert and an orthopedic surgeon comprised the medical panel.
It reviewed Snyder's "relevant medical history and
examined him before concluding that the accident did not
medically cause the current degenerative arthritis in his
right shoulder." The medical panel drafted a report
supporting its conclusion.
The ALJ denied Snyder's request for PPD compensation
based on the medical panel's determination that the
accident did not cause his degenerative arthritis. The Labor
Commission affirmed the ALJ's decision. Snyder now seeks