We don’t think anything that happens in the legislature or the IWCC will amount to a hill of beans unless and until the judicial branch signs on. We urge our state’s leaders to get together and write a letter to Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride to see if they will get the same message about saving WC dollars for Illinois business. Chief Justice Kilbride and the august members of the Illinois Supreme Court supervise all of our reviewing courts and assigns the veteran justices who make up the Appellate Court, Workers’ Compensation Division.
With respect to the members of the our highest courts, we are telling everyone who will listen what we feel are the most anti-business decisions in Illinois WC history have been issued in the last twelve months including:
1. ABF Freight System v. IWCC – In this claim, an injured worker strained his back. Benefits were paid and he was almost done with care and back to work. While riding a personal motorcycle for reasons that had nothing to do with work, he fell off at around 50 mph, suffering significant and major life-changing injuries. This large Illinois union employer is now being asked to pay six or even seven-figure benefits for injuries to a claimant who fell off his own motorcycle. We consider that outcome egregious, primarily because it ends the centuries-old concept of intervening and superseding accident. From a purely academic perspective, we don’t feel there is any state or workers’ compensation system on this planet that would or should provide benefits in such a situation.
2. Barrington Orthopedics v. IWCC – In this claim, a woman had a five-year history of care and a failed surgery for a bad back. All of these problems pre-dated her work at Barrington Orthopedics. While at work, she claimed she suffered a “misstep.” She did not fall. This problem was so minor, she did not get emergency, first aid or other medical attention of any kind on the day of or weekend after the “misstep.” Now, following the ruling of our Appellate Court, Workers’ Compensation Division, the doctors at Barrington Orthopedics and their insurance carrier are being required to pay for all of her back problems for the rest of her life. This ruling defines the concept of a “eggshell claimant” who clearly was an accident waiting to happen to the extent there was no workplace defect or other real event that caused or contributed to her injury.
3. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago v. IWCC – In this claim, a worker was going to the bank to deposit checks. She fell down on a public driveway and broke her wrists. To our understanding, she did not describe any defect in the public driveway of any kind and simply fell down without apparent reason. She hasn’t sued the owner of the premises for any defect. The Illinois Appellate Court, Workers’ Compensation Division unanimously ordered benefits, outlining she suffered from a “street risk.” We assure our readers this concept greatly expands Illinois workers’ compensation coverage to all fall-down claims of any kind simply by inserting the place of the fall next to the word “risk,” i.e. “sidewalk risk,” “carpet risk,” “stair risk.”
These unprecedented legal rulings respectively cost Illinois employers $100,000 to over $1M in costs. Ten years ago, under more traditional WC analyses, all of them would have been denied with no WC benefits owed for what we feel are common sense and longstanding legal concepts.
If our reviewing courts in the Judicial Branch continue to strip away defenses and greatly expand the coverage of the IL WC Act, there is only so much our Executive and Legislative Branches of state government can do to bring us back to the mainstream of workers’ compensation benefits. We appreciate your thoughts and comments.