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Patches v. Industrial Commission of Arizona - 2/24/2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That Housekeeping Services Are Not Compensable Services Under Arizona’s Workers’ Compensation System.

Sharon Patches (“claimant”) was employed by the City of Phoenix as a police lieutenant.  She was injured on the job and filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was accepted for benefits.  The claimant’s injuries ultimately left her severely physically restricted.  Her physicians recommended that she be provided with house-keeping services.  Claimant sought these benefits from the carrier, SCF Arizona, who denied the claim, asserting that house-keeping services are not covered medical expenses under A.R.S. § 23-1062(A).  Claimant eventually requested and received a hearing, and the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied her request for relief.  On administrative review, the ALJ summarily affirmed the award, and claimant brought a special action.

Reviewing Arizona’s worker’s compensation statute de novo, Division one affirmed.  The court reviewed the plain language of A.R.S. § 23-1062(A), and held that housekeeping services did not, as claimant asserted, constitute “other treatment” within the meaning of the statute.  Noting that benefits under the workers’ compensation statute are not coextensive with tort damages, the court reasoned that (1) the statute does not mention house-keeping services expressly and (2) while the absence of such express language “does not itself dispose of claimant’s position, the absence of any statutory language identifying a category of services within which housekeeping could credibly fit ends the inquiry.” The court noted that an extension of the meaning of “other treatment” is for the legislature to decide, not the courts.  The court also reviewed recent cases deeming other classes of expenses outside the scope of “other treatment,” including child care costs and compensation for a spouse who provides attendant care services for the injured claimant.

Judge Swann authored the opinion, with Judges Portley and Thompson concurring.

Posted On: 3/3/2009