City of Flagstaff/SCF Arizona v. Industrial Commission of Arizona/Bunch – 2/24/2015

March 2, 2015

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that it was error to award claimant reimbursement for travel from Flagstaff to Phoenix because the record did not establish that claimant had no choice but to travel for medical treatment.

This special action arises from an Industrial Commission of Arizona award and decision.  The claimant sustained an industrial injury while working at City of Flagstaff’s wastewater treatment plant.  The claimant received extensive treatment in Flagstaff, and his claim was eventually closed with a 5% unscheduled permanent partial impairment, no loss of earning capacity, and a supportive care award. 

Because of continued pain, the claimant was referred to a neurosurgeon in Phoenix.  The claimant successfully reopened his claim and underwent a recommended surgery.  Claimant then filed a request for reimbursement of his travel expenses from Flagstaff to Phoenix for treatment.  The Administrative Law Judge held a hearing and entered an award granting the mileage reimbursement.  The award was affirmed on administrative review, and this special action followed.

The Court of Appeals set aside the award.  The Court has previously held that “an injured worker who must travel outside the area in which he or she resides to receive treatment is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses.”  Carr v. Industrial Commission, 197 Ariz. 164, 167 ¶ 12, 3 P.3d 1084, 1087 (App. 1999).  Because claimant failed to establish that he had no choice but to travel to Phoenix for the medical treatment, it was error to award him reimbursement for travel. 

Judge Thompson authored the opinion; Judges Gould and Swann concurred.