Carbajal v. The Industrial Commission of Arizona – 6/15/2009

July 2, 2009

Arizona Supreme Court Holds That Attendant Care Services Provided By Spouse May Be Compensable Under Arizona’s Workers’ Compensation Statute.

As a result of an industrial injury, Carbajal requires full-time care and intermittent attendant care.  His employer, and the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier, paid for attendant care for Carbajal, along with other services.  When the attendant care provider was not available, Carbajal’s spouse provided supervision and care for Carbajal.  The carrier rejected Carbajal’s request for payment for the services provided by his spouse, and an Administrative Law Judge agreed.  On special action appeal, the court of appeals upheld the denial.

The Arizona Supreme Court reversed, holding that the compensability of services “depends on the nature of the care provided and not the status or identity of the service provider.”  For services to be compensable, the services must be included in a list of categories of treatment, and they must be “reasonably required.”  A.R.S. § 23-1062(A).  First, the Court held that palliative care like that provided by Mrs. Carbajal was included within the compensable categories of care. Second, because compensability turned on the nature of the care and not the status of the provider, the Court reasoned that the fact that Mrs. Carbajal was not a licensed health care provider was immaterial.  Finally, the Court remanded to the Administrative Law Judge to resolve whether the services Mrs. Carbajal provided were “reasonably required.”

Vice Chief Justice Berch authored the unanimous opinion.