CASE LAW UPDATE OCTOBER 2019

10/31/2019 11:25 AM | Judy Pfeiffer (Administrator)

Arising Out of Employment:

Crusoe v. Harper College, 27 ILWCLB 144 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner was a custodial services supervisor at a college. He was walking through a hallway en route to an inspection when his left knee got stuck in the carpet and buckled. On his investigation report, he noted that he was walking through the hallway when he heard his knee pop and was “clueless” about the cause of the incident. At trial, the Petitioner testified that the floor below the carpet was defective.

The Arbitrator denied benefits because there was no mention of his knee getting stuck in the carpet in his initial treatment records and instead noted that he hurt himself while walking. Further, the Arbitrator indicated that if the carpet was defective, the Petitioner had ample time to provide notice or make a report as the custodial supervisor and never did. Because the Arbitrator found he hurt himself while walking and the act of walking does not expose him to an increased risk of injury compared to the general public, his injury did not arise out his employment. The Commission affirmed noting that he suffered from an idiopathic condition, which was a personal risk unrelated to his employment.

Increased Risk:

Stewart v. Jewel Food Stores / New Alberton’s Inc., 27 ILWCLB 145 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner worked in a “recoup room” in a warehouse recouping damaged product that could be salvaged. He initially reported that he injured himself after he tripped over a tote of product falling onto his tailbone. However, his medical records indicated that he hurt himself when he went to sit down on a chair and it rolled out from under him and / or that he tripped on a bench. The Arbitrator denied benefits based on the surveillance footage of the alleged accident. The footage showed the Petitioner attempt to sit down, miss his chair, immediately stand up after the fall and continue working. The Arbitrator noted that the Petitioner misjudged the location of the chair and that’s what caused him to fall, not any defect with the chair or the surrounding area. Since the risk of him missing his chair was not related to his work and was just as likely to happen outside of work, the Arbitrator found it was a neutral risk. No evidence was presented to show he was quantitatively or qualitatively exposed to this risk greater than the general public. The Commission affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s denial of benefits.

Jackson v. Loretto Hospital, 27 ILWCLB 146 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner worked as a medical records technician for a hospital. When entering work one day, she stumbled on steps walking upstairs in the hospital. The Arbitrator denied

benefits noting there was no defect in the staircase, and she did not have to perform any special task that necessitated her need to carry anything or hurry while taking the stairs. The Arbitrator explained that stairs are a neutral risk and a fall is not compensable if the Petitioner does not face a risk of injury to a greater degree than that faced by the general public. The Commission affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s decision.

Course of Employment:

Newson v. Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, 27 ILWCLB 147 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner is a customer service representative for the Respondent, who is located in the basement of a college student union. The student union is open to all students and occupies multiple businesses, but the Respondent was the only employer in the basement. In order to get to work, the Petitioner has to enter the student union, walk down a hall, and either take the elevator or stairs down to the basement. The Petitioner was walking to work one day and slipped and fell on a wet floor in the common area of the student union, injuring her ankle. The Arbitrator awarded benefits.

The Commission reversed, finding that the Petitioner did not prove the injury occurred in the course of employment. The Commission found that because the Petitioner was not instructed on which route to take to work and the union had many entrances all open to the general public, the Petitioner was not exposed to a greater risk. They specifically found that the requirement of walking through the lobby two times per day in order to travel to and from work did not establish increased risk.

Pickett v. Chester Mental Health Center, 27 ILWCLB 148 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner is an activity therapist at a mental health center, who provided leisure activities for patients. He often provided music for the patients during gym sessions. One day while on break, the Petitioner went to his car to get a CD he had forgotten and intended to use during that day’s gym session. While walking to his car, he slipped and fell on ice in the parking lot, injuring his knee. The Petitioner was assigned to park in a specific area of the parking lot which only employees could use. The public and visitors had to park in a separate parking lot.

The Arbitrator awarded benefits finding that the Petitioner’s actions were within the scope of his employment since he was performing a duty he was hired to perform. The Arbitrator also found that the accident arose out of the Petitioner’s employment because he slipped on ice in a parking lot controlled by the Respondent. The Commission affirmed.

Walker Brothers Inc. v. (Ramsey), IWCC, 27 ILWCLB 155 (Ill. App. Ct., 1st 2019).

The Petitioner was a cook with the Respondent. On the day of his accident he was parked in a neighboring parking lot of another business waiting for a co-worker to arrive and open the restaurant. When the co-worker arrived, the Petitioner rushed to follow him and slipped

and fell in the neighboring business’s parking lot. The Respondent had a longstanding agreement with the neighboring business that 13 of the Respondent’s employees could park in its lot from January through October. These parking spaces were open to the public and there was no sign indicating that they were reserved for the Respondent’s employees.

The Commission found that the Petitioner’s injury arose out of and in the course and scope of his employment and awarded benefits. The Circuit Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Illinois Appellate Court reversed as a matter of law. They found that the Respondent did not own, control, or contribute toward maintenance of the neighboring lot. There was no evidence to support the Petitioner’s claim he was required to park there. Rather, they found that the evidence suggested most employees did not park there because it required them to cross the street. Based on this, the Appellate Court found the neighboring lot was not provided by the Respondent and the Petitioner’s injuries did not arise out of and in the course and scope of his employment.

Wylie v. Illinois State of / Dept. of Juvenile Justice, 27 ILWCLB 156 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner was a juvenile justice specialist at a youth correction center. In this position she supervised, interacted, and participated with the youths. She would take the kids on field trips, including day trip to a swimming pool. While at the pool on day, she dove in and injured her shoulder. The Respondent’s written rules did not prohibit swimming.

The Arbitrator denied benefits finding that the Petitioner failed to prove she sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of her employment. The Commission reversed. They found she was a traveling employee because she was required to take the youths to the pool that day. Because the Petitioner was required to interact with the students, and that is what she was doing while swimming with them at the pool, they found her injury also arose out of her employment. Further, they found it was reasonable and foreseeable that she would swim that day and there were no rules preventing her from swimming.

Ciaccio v. Riverside Medical Center, 27 ILWCLB 157 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner was a trauma registrar and emergency preparedness specialist at a medical center. She also served as a chairperson on the Respondent’s “Partners in Care Committee” where she oversaw committee fundraisers. The Petitioner oversaw a “treadmill-a-thon” where employees exercised on treadmills or bikes for 24 hours in an effort to fundraise. During this event, the Petitioner tripped and fell over a barrier and fractured her wrist. The Petitioner testified she was encouraged to serve on this committee by her employer and was paid normal wages during the fundraiser which took place during normal office hours.

The Arbitrator denied benefits based on Section 11 of the Act. Upon review, the Commission affirmed the denial of benefits, but rejected the Arbitrator’s application of Section 11. The Commission found that while exercising could be a recreational activity under Section 11, the exercise at this fundraiser was done to raise money and not for play and was therefore not a recreational activity under Section 11. The Commission found that the Petitioner failed to

prove she was required as part of her job to participate in this fundraiser and it was a voluntary act that did not arise out of and in the course of her employment.

Accidental Injury:

Aden v. Tyson Foods Inc., 27 ILWCLB 149 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner had finished his shift and was waiting in his car outside the Respondent’s premises for his co-workers so he could drive him home. The Petitioner exited his car briefly and while doing so, was attacked and stabbed by a co-worker. The Petitioner had not spoken to the assailant that day but did have a prior work dispute with him years earlier. The Petitioner had previously reported the assailant for failing to assist him with work. The assailant had made multiple threats to the Petitioner after reporting him.

The Arbitrator found a compensable accident and awarded benefits. The Commission affirmed based on the facts that the Petitioner was not the aggressor and the evidence proving the attack was work-related and not personal. The Commission found this risk was peculiar to the Petitioner’s employment and not one shared by the general public.

Breitbarth v. Pepsi, 27 ILWCLB 150 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019).

The Petitioner is a truck hiker / case picker who puts cases of beverages on pallets and uses a forklift to take those pallets to a staging area. In this position, he stands on his feet between 2-12 hours per day, working 50-70 hours per week. The Petitioner was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis and tarsal tunnel syndrome in his feet.

The Arbitrator denied benefits indicating that the Petitioner failed to prove a compensable condition. He based his denial on the fact there was no medical evidence supporting causation and the initial medical histories did not indicate a work injury. He also relied on the Respondent’s expert who opined that plantar fasciitis is degenerative and can only be caused by cumulative trauma with high impact activities, which the Petitioner did not do at work. The Commission affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s opinion.

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