At the 2016 Illinois Self Insurers’ Association 38th Annual Educational Seminar and Membership Meeting, Christopher Gibbons and Keith Herman from Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry, P.C., discussed recent important workers’ compensation decisions from the Illinois Court of Appeals.
Reichling vs. Touchette Regional Hospital
The issue on this case was – who was the proper employer? The claimant was employed by a staffing agency and was placed in the hospital where she was injured. She filed a claim against her staffing-agency employer and ultimately settled that claim. She later filed a civil liability claim against the hospital for the slip and fall. The hospital was able to get the claim dismissed under the argument that she was a borrowed employee, so the exclusive remedy protections applied.
Esquinca vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a truck driver who had signed an agreement with the trucking company indicating he was an “independent contractor”. In this case, the worker suffered an injury and tried to file a workers’ compensation claim against the trucking company. The courts looked at a number of issues, including how the worker was paid and who controlled his schedule. The courts ruled he was an independent contractor and could not pursue a workers’ compensation claim. They noted that these cases are extremely fact-specific when it comes to determining whether the person can be considered an independent contractor.
Adcock vs. Illinois WC Commission
The claimant worked as a welder working on lock systems. He had permanent restrictions from a prior injury that required him to perform his duties seated in a wheeled swivel chair. The employer accommodated those restrictions so that he could work. The claimant said he injured his left knee while swiveling in the chair. He said he was not pushing the chair, but only turning his body in the chair. The defendant argued that there was no greater risk of injury created by the employer and that the act of turning in the chair should not be a compensable claim. The courts determined that the job required him to turn in a chair more frequently than members of the general public and, because of this, his employment did create a greater risk, so the claim was compensable.
Bollingbrook Police Dept vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a police officer who injured his back after lifting his duty bag while at home. The defendant argued that he was not required to bring the duty bag home and that the accident did not occur in the course and scope of employment since it happened at home. The court concluded that the facts supported this was a compensable accident as the claimant was responsible for the safekeeping of his duty bag and that storage of the bag at home was permitted.
City of Bridgeport vs. Illnois WC Commission
The claimant, a water meter reader, had a pre-existing seizure disorder and suffered grand mail seizures. While reading a meter, she suffered a seizure and drowned in eight inches of standing water. The employer argued this was an idiopathic fall and her employment did not put her at greater risk than the general public. The court found that the claimant was exposed to a risk not confronted by the general public in that the meter was located in an area known to flood and that the area was also secluded.
Moran vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a fire department lieutenant who alleged post-traumatic stress after a fellow firefighter died during a call the claimant commanded. Following the incident all the first responders underwent grief counseling and the claimant could not return to work until cleared by a psychiatrist. The claimant was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to a sudden, usual and traumatic event. The Commission denied the claim as they felt the claimant’s experience was not unusual for a firefighter. The Court of Appeals reversed and allowed the mental-mental claim because they felt that, the fact that the employer immediately provided counseling and would not allow the firefighters to return to work until cleared by a psychiatrist, showed that this was an unusual and extraordinary event.
United Airlines vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a flight attendant who was injured while traveling from her home in Colorado to her base airport in New York. She was flying to New York the day prior to her scheduled work day and not being compensated for her travel. Claimant was using her leisure travel pass which allowed her to travel on any United flight subject to availability. The court ruled that this was not a compensable claim as the claimant was engaged in her regular commute from her chosen residence to the city where her job assignment was located.
Allenbaugh vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a police office who usually worked second shift starting at 2:45 pm. He was ordered to report for training starting at 8:00 am. While driving to the training, he was in a car accident and filed a workers’ compensation claim alleging that, as a police officer, he is on duty 24-hours-a-day and was bringing his police gear to the training. The courts ruled this was not a compensable claim because he was driving his personal vehicle to the normal workplace when the accident occurred.
Jackson Park Hospital vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant was a stationary engineer who sustained injuries that prevented her from returning to her usual and customary job. The employer brought the claimant back to work in a security job and continued to pay her at her prior wages. The claimant requested wage loss benefits, which the Commission denied because there was no loss of wages. The Court of Appeals reversed and said that the required evaluation is the claimant’s “earning capacity”, not just their wages. Because her earning capacity in a competitive job market was diminished, she was entitled to wage loss benefits.
Chaldea vs. Illinois WC Commission
Claimant suffered an injury that resulted in permanent restrictions. He returned to work with those restrictions and the employer was paying wage loss benefits. While working in the new job, he suffered a second injury that resulted in permanent total disability. The claimant argued he should be able to collect both wage loss benefits from the first injury and permanent total benefits from the second claim. The employer argued that the wage loss benefits should terminate at the time of the second injury because he became permanently totally disabled. Commission agreed that wage loss benefits should terminate, but the Court of Appeals reversed ruling that the claimant suffered two distinct economic disabilities and was entitled to collect both wage differential and permanent total disability benefits from the same employer indefinitely.