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CARTER v. ARLINGTON CO. FIRE DEPT.


CARTER

v.

ARLINGTON CO. FIRE DEPT.

(unpublished)


APRIL 20, 1999

Record No. 2394-98-4

CHARLES FRANCIS CARTER

v.

ARLINGTON COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT

FROM THE VIRGINIA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
COMMISSION

Present: Judges Elder, Bumgardner and Lemons

MEMORANDUM OPINION [1] PER CURIAM

(Charles Francis Carter, pro se,
on briefs).

(Lisa A. Cay; Siciliano, Ellis, Dyer &
Boccarosse, on brief), for appellee.


Charles Francis Carter ("claimant")
contends that the Workers’ Compensation Commission
("commission") erred in finding that (1) he was not
entitled to reimbursement for the cost of air conditioning
repairs to any vehicles other than his 1989 Plymouth Voyager; (2)
he was not entitled to reimbursement for interest and other
out-of-pocket costs; (3) his request for reimbursement for home
air conditioning expenses was barred by the doctrine of res
judicata; and (4) he was not entitled to reimbursement for
certain mileage expenses.
[2] Upon reviewing the record and the briefs of the
parties, we conclude that this appeal is without merit.
Accordingly, we summarily affirm the commission’s decision. See
Rule 5A:27.

On appeal, we view the evidence in the light
most favorable to the prevailing party below. See R.G.
Moore Bldg. Corp. v. Mullins
, 10 Va. App. 211, 212, 390
S.E.2d 788, 788 (1990). Unless we can say as a matter of law that
claimant’s evidence sustained his burden of proof, the
commission’s findings are binding and conclusive upon us. See
Tomko v. Michael’s Plastering Co., 210 Va. 697, 699, 173
S.E.2d 833, 835 (1970).

I.

In denying claimant’s request for reimbursement
for the cost of air conditioning repairs to vehicles other than
his 1989 Plymouth Voyager, the commission found as follows:

Deputy Commissioner Bruner, in his Opinion
issued January 5, 1996, approved such repairs only on a
Plymouth van, which the billing record shows to be a 1989
Plymouth Voyager. In these proceedings, [claimant] asserted
that Deputy Commissioner Bruner’s Opinion authorized repairs
of all his Plymouth vehicles, which is a misinterpretation of
that Opinion, as well as of the Opinions issued on review and
on appeal. . . . We agree with Deputy
Commissioner Cummins that such additional repair costs are
not the reasonable and necessary responsibility of the
employer. This instant claim demonstrates the absurdity of
the claimant’s argument. Although he demanded air
conditioning repairs on four vehicles, [claimant] admitted at
the hearing that he had expenses attributable only to three,
but that he might make a later claim for the fourth vehicle.
The award of medical benefits deemed necessary by the
Commission must be balanced against a reasonableness standard
that compels the employer to pay for such benefits. We agree
with the Deputy Commissioner that the employer should be
liable only for the cost of air conditioning repairs to the
claimant’s 1989 Plymouth Voyager, and also that the employer
should be allowed to determine the necessity and
reasonableness of future repairs before such costs are
incurred.

The commission further held that employer was
liable to reimburse claimant in the amount of $942.90, which
constituted the cost of a June 4, 1996 air conditioning repair to
the 1989 Plymouth Voyager, less amounts already paid by employer
and less the cost of a state inspection of that vehicle.

In order to hold an employer liable for medical
expenses pursuant to Code Sect. 65.2-603, claimant bore the
burden of proving that those expenses were reasonable, necessary,
and causally related to his compensable injury. Claimant
presented no evidence that air conditioning repairs to vehicles
other than his 1989 Plymouth Voyager were medically reasonable,
necessary, or causally related to his compensable injury by
accident.
[3] Accordingly, we cannot find as a matter of law that
claimant’s evidence sustained his burden of proof.

II.

Claimant contends that the commission erred in
refusing to hold employer liable to reimburse him for interest, i.e.,
finance charges, and other "out-of-pocket" costs
associated with pursuing his claim. The Workers’ Compensation Act
does not provide any basis for an award of such costs.
Accordingly, the commission did not err in denying claimant’s
request.

III.

The July 25, 1995 home air conditioning repair
expenses were addressed in the commission’s January 5, 1996
opinion. In that opinion, Deputy Commissioner Bruner found those
home air conditioning repair expenses noncompensable on the
ground that they were not medically necessary. The full
commission affirmed that opinion. Subsequently, this Court
affirmed the commission’s opinion.

Res judicata applies "where
there is a valid, personal judgment obtained by a defendant on
the merits of an action. The judgment bars relitigation of the same
cause of action
, or any part thereof which could have been
litigated between the same parties and their privies." K
& L Trucking Co. v. Thurber
, 1 Va. App. 213, 219, 337
S.E.2d 299, 302 (1985). Because the issue of employer’s liability
for the cost of the July 25, 1995

home air conditioning expenses was previously
decided against claimant and in favor of employer, the commission
did not err in ruling that claimant could not seek to relitigate
that issue. Thus, the commission properly denied claimant’s
request for reimbursement for the July 25, 1995 home air
conditioning expenses as barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

IV.

In ruling upon claimant’s request for mileage
reimbursement, the commission found as follows:

[C]laimant’s evidence did not limit his
travel to direct routes to/from medical treatment or repair
facilities. There was therefore no basis to assess travel
costs against the employer, since the claimant essentially
declined to present such evidence of reasonable travel, but
only evidence of travel that was presumably inflated. The
Deputy Commissioner acknowledged payment by the employer for
some mileage, and she limited Carter’s recovery for such
reimbursement to amounts already paid. We find on review that
this was a reasonable accommodation to inaccurate mileage
evidence offered by the claimant.

The record amply supports the commission’s
findings. In light of the reasonableness standard applicable to
this issue, we cannot say as a matter of law that claimant’s
evidence proved that employer was liable to reimburse him for any
mileage expenses other than those it had already paid.
[4]

For these reasons, we affirm the commission’s
decision.
[5]

Affirmed.

 

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Pursuant to Code
Sect. 17.1-413, recodifying Code Sect. 17-116.010, this
opinion is not designated for publication.

[2] Claimant
presented arguments and evidence in his thirty-five page brief
which were either not before the commission or are irrelevant to
the issues on appeal. We will only address those issues decided
by the commission in its September 11, 1998 review opinion, and
timely appealed by claimant.

[3] We note that
claimant’s argument that employer was contractually obligated to
reimburse him for the cost of air conditioning repairs to four
vehicles is without merit. Such a contract, not approved by the
commission, has no legal significance under the Workers’
Compensation Act. Rather, employer’s responsibility for medical
expenses is judged under a reasonableness standard pursuant to
Code Sect. 65.2-603.

[4] In affirming the
commission’s ruling on this issue, we cannot consider any
evidence that was not properly before the commission when it
rendered its decision.

[5] Appellant has filed a motion that appellee’s brief not
be considered by the Court. Appellee has filed a motion to
dismiss the appeal. We deny both motions.

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