Willy v. Northwest Airlines Corp.

Willy v. Northwest Airlines Corp., No. WC14-5709 (December 3, 2014)

In Willy the employee appealed the compensation judge’s findings that her request for medical mileage reimbursement was unreasonable.

Ms. Willy injured her left knee on April 22, 1997 and subsequently began treating for chronic pain, depression and her orthopedic condition in the Twin Cities metro area.  At the time of the injury, she lived in Burnsville and later moved to New Prague, Minnesota.  During this time period her medical mileage was paid.

In 2009 the employee moved to Saukville, Wisconsin, just south of Green Bay.  She continued treating with her Minnesota physicians. The employee did not request reimbursement until 2012 when she demanded approximately $18,000 for medical mileage.

Employer and insurer argued that this medical mileage was unreasonable as qualified medical providers were located much closer to the employee in Wisconsin.  The compensation judge agreed.

On appeal, the employee argued that she had good reason to continue treating with the physicians with whom she had a long-standing relationship.  She also argued that she could become personally liable for treatment in Wisconsin due to the Schatz v. Interfaith Care Center decision.

The WCCA affirmed, holding that claims for reimbursement of medical mileage may be unreasonable when alternative medical providers are located much closer to the employee.  Furthermore, the compensation judge’s findings were not clearly erroneous.  The WCCA did remand the issue of whether the employee is entitled to some reasonable reimbursement of mileage, even if the entire claim is not reasonable.