Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, in case of Clinton P. Huntsman v. Harbison-Walker Refractories, No. A-85814.
Raymond F. Keisling, Will and Keisling, for petitioners.
Neil M. Shukovsky, Galfand, Berger, Senesky, Lurie & March, for respondent.
David H. Wilderman, for Amicus Curiae, AFL-CIO of Pennsylvania.
Terry W. Knox, with him, Mary Ann Rossi, MacElree, Harvey, Gallagher, O'Donnell & Featherman, LTD., for Amicus Curiae, Lukens Steel Company.
Judges Doyle and Colins, and Senior Judge Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Doyle.
[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 383]
This is an appeal by Harbison-Walker Refractories (Employer) and Commercial Insurance Company, Employer's insurer, from an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Board) affirming a referee's decision allowing reimbursement of travel expenses incurred by Clinton P. Huntsman (Claimant) for travel in connection with medical treatment.
Claimant suffered a compensable back injury on December 27, 1976. He was paid benefits pursuant to a notice of compensation payable for various periods of disability. Claimant's petition was filed solely for the purpose of obtaining reimbursement for travel expenses to and from Claimant's home, in Mount Union, Pennsylvania, to the J. C. Blair Memorial Hospital, in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, for physical therapy treatments (a thirty-nine mile round trip). The referee awarded travel expenses of $658.12 and the Board affirmed. The sole issue on appeal is whether travel expenses are reimbursable under Section 306(f) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act,*fn1 77 P.S. § 531. Section 306(f) provides in pertinent part:
The employer shall provide payment for reasonable surgical and medical services, . . . and supplies, as and when needed. . . .
[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 384]
This Court first allowed recovery of such expenses in City of New Castle v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, 65 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 25, 441 A.2d 803 (1982). New Castle, however, contained no discussion of the issue but merely allowed the reimbursement. More recently, in Bonitz Brothers, Inc. v. Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board (Wymes), 81 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 594, 474 A.2d 393 (1984), this Court considered at some length the question of whether Section 306(f) permits reimbursement for travel expenses. The majority in Bonitz was apparently unpersuaded by the argument that the legislature intended, by its deletion from Section 306(f) of language specifically allowing for transportation expenses, that such expenses no longer be reimbursable. Bonitz reasoned instead that the term "medical services" in Section 306(f) included travel expenses and thus that such expenses were reimbursable if reasonable. Thus, to the extent that Employer asserts that the deletion in language has indicated a legislative intent to prevent recovery of such expenses, that question has been dealt with in Bonitz which controls here.
The question thus becomes whether the travel expenses required to obtain the medical services were reasonable. Bonitz, in assessing the reasonableness factor, considered inter alia, whether the Employer was aware of the long distance treatments and whether the employer had contested the underlying liability. In Bonitz, as here, the employer ...