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D.A.M. Carpentry Corp. v. Scruggs

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

November 21, 2013

D.A.M. CARPENTRY CORP., ET AL.
v.
GERALD SCRUGGS

Zarnoch, Graeff, Raker, Irma S. (Retired, specially assigned), JJ.

OPINION

Raker, J.

D.A.M. Carpentry Corp. and Erie Insurance Group, appellants, appeal the Order of the Circuit Court for Montgomery County granting summary judgment in favor of Gerald Scruggs, appellee, which entitled him to collect medical mileage under the Workers' Compensation Act. Before this Court, appellants present two questions for our review, which we have rephrased as one issue:

Did the court err in awarding appellee medical mileage from August 3, 2009 through April 11, 2011, even though appellee was unable to produce receipts documenting the actual cost of travel to and from his medical appointments?

We shall reverse for the reasons set forth below.

I.

On June 30, 2011, appellee, who has received workers' compensation benefits since 2001, filed a claim for reimbursement with his employer D.A.M. Carpentry Corp. and insurer Erie Insurance Group. Appellee requested mileage reimbursement for expenses he incurred traveling to and from medical appointments for treatment related to his work injuries. Appellants denied his claim because appellee failed to document the actual costs of his travel. Appellee filed the issue in dispute with the Workers' Compensation Commission ("Commission") on October 3, 2011. On January 20, 2012, the Commission held a hearing on appellants' denial of the claims. The Commission ruled in favor of appellee, ordering that the employer and insurer pay medical mileage. Appellants noted a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. Both parties filed for summary judgment. After a hearing, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of appellee, affirming the order of the Commission. This timely appeal followed.

According to the record, on March 21, 2001, when appellee was employed as a foreman for D.A.M. Carpentry, he was injured on the job while helping his co-workers lift a wall. As a result of this injury, appellee suffers from neck and back pain that has prevented him from returning to work and for which he continues to receive medical treatment.

Appellee went to several medical appointments for his injuries between August 3, 2009 and April 11, 2011. He did not drive himself to these appointments; rather, he took either a taxi, bus, Metro, Metro Access, or his mother drove him. He does not recall which mode of transportation he took to which appointment, nor did he retain any receipts for his travel.

Appellee's lawyer provided him with a form to submit to appellants to obtain reimbursement for travel to and from these appointments. The form, titled "Medical Travel Expense Form, " had several columns. One column was for "round trip mileage." Another was titled "public trans/other, " and asked for the inclusion of receipts. The form also explained that copies of supporting documents, such as cab and parking receipts, should be attached. Appellee submitted several copies of this form to appellants covering all of his appointments between August 3, 2009 and April 11, 2011. On each form, appellee filled out the "round trip mileage" column by indicating the miles to and from the appointment. Appellee left the "public trans/other" column blank, and did not include any receipts. Appellants refused to reimburse appellee's mileage, claiming that because he did not drive himself, he could not be reimbursed unless he retained receipts stating the actual cost of travel.

At the hearing before the Commission, appellee testified that he did not recall which mode of transportation he took to which appointment, only that he did not drive to any of them. He admitted that he did not retain any receipts for his travel on the dates for which he requested reimbursement. Appellee explained also that he was not asking to be reimbursed for his actual travel costs, but instead for miles traveled based on the Commission's prevailing mileage rate.

In finding for appellee, the circuit court relied on Breitenbach v. N.B. Handy Co., 366 Md. 467, 484, 784 A.2d 569, 579 (2001). There, the Court of Appeals held that although Maryland Code (1991, 2008 Repl. Vol.) § 9-660 of the Labor & Employment Article[1] does not provide explicitly for mileage reimbursement to injured workers, given its remedial nature, the statute should be given liberal construction and injured workers could recover the costs of travel to and from medical appointments. Applying this rule of liberal construction to the facts sub judice, the circuit court found that even though appellee retained no receipts for his travel, it was undisputed that he incurred costs in traveling to and from medical treatment. For this reason, the circuit court decided that appellee was entitled to be reimbursed based on the number of miles traveled to and from the appointments at the Commission's prevailing mileage rate.

II.

Before this Court, appellants argue that the employee should bear the burden of producing evidence to support a claim for reimbursement. Appellee did not produce the receipts documenting the cost of his travel, and reimbursing him at the mileage rate is not reasonable or necessary under Breitenbach. Appellants cite workers' compensation cases from other jurisdictions demonstrating that an employer will only be liable for actual transportation expenses incurred by the employee, and that the employee must present evidence of those expenses. Appellants maintain that miles traveled cannot always be the correct rate for reimbursement, because if so, an employer could be required to reimburse an employee for miles traveled even when the ...


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