8-27-12; When exactly is enough, enough?

On August 7, 2012 the Belleville-News Democrat reported the State of Illinois had filed “suit” in Circuit Court to challenge the “settlement” obtained by former Arbitrator Jennifer Teague which resulted from a repetitive trauma claim she filed in 2010. The “settlement” was actually an award which was handed down by an outside arbitrator specially appointed by the State of Illinois to hear and decide cases involving IWCC employees, including arbitrators in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

The BND pointed out the outside arbitrator was appointed as one of the results of a series of articles which focused on the Menard Correctional Center workers’ compensation abuses which did not involve Arbitrator Teague. Those stories also lead to a series of stories regarding the tragic Matt Mitchell case in which the former Arbitrator unsuccessfully tried to steer the case out from under the watchful eye of the press. That mistake lead to the uncovering of a series of emails in which the former Arbitrator was advising plaintiff’s attorneys how to proceed with cases not in front of her.

This series of missteps lead to her ultimate dismissal and a complaint filed before the ARDC which is yet to be decided. Currently former Arbitrator Teague is not practicing law and it is likely her privileges will be suspended for a period of time. In an effort to avoid a certain level of scrutiny she has even resumed the use of her maiden name.

Which leads the commentator back to the original question: When exactly enough, enough? Former Arbitrator Teague’s mistakes have likely cost her law license and her job. Even in the event her law license is re-instated she will have to answer to the loss of her job and will likely have a difficult time re-building a practice. So now the State is going to make a further example of her by taking their new amendment to the Workers’ Compensation Act out for a test-drive and try to vacate the award which was written by their special arbitrator.

And how are they going to justify this exactly? And because of perceived abuses or lack of accountability, the State appointed outside arbitrators to hear these cases; BUT THEN THEIR OUTSIDE ARBITRATOR FOUND THE CASE TO BE COMPENSABLE! So how do they justify vacating that award? It’s difficult to find case law that supports turning over the award simply because the State doesn’t like the claimant. And how much more tax money exactly, will the State waste with this crusade? By the time this case wends itself through the Circuit Court and Appellate Courts, very likely more than the award itself.

We are not privy to the decision of the Arbitrator or the evidence presented in former Arbitrator Teague’s case, but it would seem from the article the “independent” Arbitrator was presented with convincing enough evidence in the way of medical opinions to justify the award. Rather than waste crucial attorney hours, which are paid by the State taxpayers, chasing this red-herring, maybe it’s time for the AG’s office to actually work at defending cases like this one. As noted, we don’t have the decision before us, but In the current climate it is clear that had they presented any reasonable evidence rebutting her claim, the claim would have been denied.

It’s time to let this sorry chapter in the IWCC history be put to rest, let Jennifer Teague get on with her life and for the AG’s office to focus on the real task at hand, cleaning up how they handle State of IL workers’ compensation claims. This article was researched and written by James F. Egan, J.D., please send your thoughts to Jim at jegan@keefe-law.com.