West Virginia Supreme Court rules in Parkersburg meal case

PARKERSBURG — The West Virginia Supreme Court in a 4-1 decision ruled for a man denied reimbursement for a meal he ate while on an ordered medical examination 100 miles from home.

The court said Carlos D. Silveti, who worked at the Ohio Valley Nursing Home in Parkersburg, should have received a reasonable reimbursement for meal costs, said his attorney, William B. Richardson Jr. of Parkersburg.

“This will apply to any Workers’ Compensation claimant in West Virginia,” Richardson said.

Silveti, who has since moved to Florida, was a chef and was injured in a fall at the facility on Jan. 7, 2016, Richardson said.

Silveti was ordered by his claims administrator to undergo the examination in Fairmont, which took six hours, and ate one meal for $37 at Outback, according to court documents.

Silveti appealed the denial by the claims administrator to the Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges, which affirmed the claims administrator’s decision. He then appealed that decision to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review, which upheld the decision by the Office of Judges.

The decision by the Board of Review was appealed by Silveti to the Supreme Court.

West Virginia Code 23-4-8 requires reasonable reimbursement for traveling expenses when someone is ordered to attend a medical examination, “which includes, at a minimum, reimbursement for meals,” the majority opinion by Justice Menis E. Ketchum II said.

“We find that under the plain language of West Virginia Code 23-4-8, the claims administrator did not have discretion to deny Mr. Silveti reimbursement for his meal expense on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging,” the opinion said. “We remand this case to the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review for an order consistent with state law.”

Previously to the decision, a meal reimbursement was not approved if there was not overnight travel involved, Richardson said.

“Not one penny,” he said.

The dissenting opinion was written by Justice Elizabeth D. Walker, who said the majority opinion “voids the Insurance Commissioner’s interpretation of the term ‘reasonable’ found in 23-4-8(c).

“Accordingly, I would affirm the Board of Review’s decision that Mr. Silveti’s down-under repast is not a reasonable travel expense that is reimbursable under” the state code, Walker said.