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On September 16, 2016, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals released its decision in Page v. Southern Care, Inc., --- So.3d ---, 2016 WL4938180 regarding reimbursement of reasonably necessary mileage costs.
The employee in Page, found employment as a nurse out of state on a temporary basis in West Palm Beach, Florida and in Valdosta, Georgia. She submitted mileage reimbursement requests for travel to and from her authorized physician and pharmacy in Etowah County, Alabama from her employment in Florida and Georgia. The employer refused to reimburse the employee these costs arguing that the employee could have scheduled her medical travel when she was home in Gadsden, Alabama. The employee filed her Motion to Compel arguing that Ala. Code 1975 § 25-5-77(f) does not reference where travel “to” a provider commences or where travel “from” a provider ends and does not specify that these costs be reasonable and necessary. Said statute reads as follows: “The employer shall pay mileage costs to and from medical and rehabilitation providers at the same rate as provided by law for official state travel.” The trial court entered a judgment finding in favor of the employer and denying the employee’s Motion.
In considering the employee’s argument, the Court of Civil Appeals noted that the legislature specifically expressed that employers be responsible only for the “reasonable and fair cost” of medical services. See, Ex parte Southeast Alabama Med. Ctr., 835 So.2d 1042, 1050 n. 9 (Ala.Civ.App. 2002). The Court noted that mileage costs are part of the medical-benefits statute and treated by the Alabama Department of Labor as a form of medical expenses and determined that in light of this, the legislature intended only “reasonable and fair” mileage costs should be recoverable. See, Ala. Admin. Code, Rule 480-5-5-.36. The Court held that this would also include a requirement that travel be “reasonably necessary” as well. Accordingly, under the facts of the Page case, the Court concluded that since it was undisputed that the employee could have scheduled her physician and pharmacy visits during the times when she was home in Gadsden, Alabama, the mileage costs she submitted were not reasonably necessary and therefore, not reimbursable under the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act.