Claimant entitled to reimbursement for parents' travel expenses
Case name: Price v. Piggy Palace d/b/a Hannah's BBQ, No. COA09-981 (N.C. Ct. App. 07/20/10).
Ruling: The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that an injured cook was entitled to reimbursement for his parents' travel to and from the hospital. It also remanded the case for a determination of whether attorney's fees were awarded for the original hearing or the restaurant's appeal.
What it means: Medical travel expenses of family members are authorized when the travel is medically necessary and when a traveling family member's care is "reasonably required to effect a cure or give relief."
A cook was injured when a coworker slipped and fell, spilling approximately three gallons of hot grease on him. The cook suffered burns to his head, left arm and legs. He underwent surgery to attach skin grafts. The cook's parents traveled to and from the hospital every day, totaling nearly 3,000 miles. His mother learned to change his dressings and also helped the cook bathe, walk, and stretch his muscles.
The cook sought reimbursement for his parents' travel to and from the hospital. The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that he was entitled to compensation for travel expenses incurred by his parents, as the travel was a necessary medical cost.
The restaurant contended that the cook's parents' travel expenses should not be compensable. The court stated that the evidence established that the cook's mother "provided critical physical and psychological care" during his treatment, in addition to emotional support. Additionally, the mother testified that the cook was discharged from the hospital early since she learned how to care for him. The restaurant did not contest that the mother's treatment and rehabilitation effected a cure, gave relief, or tended to lessen the period of disability. It argued that the care provided by the mother was not medically necessary since medical professionals could have provided the care.
The court was not persuaded by the argument and decided that the treatment and rehabilitation provided by the cook's mother was medically necessary.
The restaurant also argued that the cook should not be entitled to attorney's fees. The Industrial Commission had the authority to award attorney's fees if it determined that the restaurant "brought, prosecuted, or defended the original hearing without reasonable ground." The court was unable to determine whether the commission awarded attorney's fees for the original hearing or the restaurant's appeal. Therefore, the court remanded the case on this issue.
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October 4, 2010
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