CASE LAW UPDATES SEPTEMBER 2019

09/30/2019 12:04 PM | Judy Pfeiffer (Administrator)

Status of Employment:  

Oleksy v. WK Heating Inc., 27 ILWCLB 122 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2018). 

Petitioner sustained injuries while working for respondent, who installed and maintained heating and cooling systems. Respondent paid petitioner with checks made out to the business owned by petitioner.  Petitioner received a Form 1099 with no taxes or Social Security deducted from his pay.  Respondent instructed petitioner to take out workers’ compensation insurance through his own corporation and there was no written contract between petitioner and defendant.  Respondent claimed he paid petitioner per unit installed, while petitioner claimed he received payment on an hourly basis.  Respondent provided blueprints, but respondent did not dictate or control the way petitioner installed the furnaces.  Petitioner used job materials provided by respondent. Petitioner did not receive paid time off, vacation, or health insurance from respondent. The Arbitrator found that the claimant failed to prove an employer/employee relationship with the respondent.   

Petitioner appealed to the Commission and the majority affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s decision.  Commissioner Tyrrell dissented, finding that respondent paid petitioner an hourly wage, he did not have experience in the HVAC business, and defendant exercised control over the petitioner’s work. Further, Commissioner Tyrrell found respondent’s testimony “patently absurd” that he had no employees, only independent contractors.  


Arising Out of Employment: 

Stadelbacher v. Choate Mental Health,27 ILWCLB 123 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2018). 

Petitioner worked as a public service administrator and training director at respondent’s mental health facility.  At the end of her workday, she left the employee lounge through an exit-only door with the most direct path to the parking lot. She climbed several steps to a concrete slab, and then walked onto a grassy area where she stepped into a hole and injured her left knee. Another exit existed from the employee lounge directly to the staff parking area, but it required a longer walk due to a retaining wall.  The arbitrator found that petitioner’s injury arose out of her employment and awarded benefits to petitioner, distinguishing the facts from the Illinois Appellate Court’s decision in Dodson v. Industrial Commission.  The arbitrator noted there clearly was a defective area with a deep hole that caused petitioner’s knee injury, while no such defect existed in Dodson.  Furthermore, the exit petitioner used was marked with an exit sign in the employee lounge, which indicated it was a designated exit.  This exit also seemed to be the general path all employees took who left by that door.   

Respondent appealed and the majority of the Commission affirmed and adopted the opinion of the arbitrator.  Commissioner Coppoletti dissented, finding that petitioner’s accident did not arise out of her employment.  In her dissenting opinion, Commissioner Coppoletti argued that petitioner utilized an unsafe path for her own convenience even though respondent provided a safe route. 

Tindall v. Illinois, State of/Menard Correctional Center, 27 ILWCLB 124 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2019). 

Petitioner, a correctional supply supervisor at the prison, sustained injuries to his right shoulder and hand when he fell forward while traversing stairs.  After he arrived for his shift, he walked up a flight of stairs on the outside of a door already open.  Petitioner then turned around to walk down a flight of stairs that led to his office.  He carried a cup of soda in his right hand and keys in his left hand. While trying to locate the key to his office door, petitioner caught his toe on one of the steps and fell forward.  His testified his office door was locked for security reasons and he had a cup of soda in his hand as there was no water fountain near his office.  The arbitrator awarded benefits to petitioner, finding he was exposed to an employment risk to which the general public is not exposed, even though a fall while traversing stairs is usually a neutral risk.  Although there was no testimony about whether the general public used the stairs, the arbitrator inferred that the stairs were not open to the general public since the stairs were in a prison.  Further, he did not have a water fountain near his office, so it was necessary for him to have a cup of soda in his hand.  His accident arose out of his employment.  

Respondent appealed to the Commission.  The Commission majority affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator. Commissioner Simpson dissented, stating there was no evidence the stairs were defective or dangerous and petitioner did not have to use the stairs excessively in the course of his employment.  As a result, Commission Simpson found the risk of falling unrelated to petitioner’s employment.  

Read the full report.

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