IL Supreme Ct rules that an injury from a simple body movement can be compensable
ILLNOIS Workers Comp Update:
The Supreme Court of Illinois recently reached a decision that moves Illinois one step closer to making any pain or problem experienced during the work day a compensable injury.
In the decision, Kevin McAllister v. IWCC, claimant felt pain in his knee after he knelt to the floor to look for a tray of carrots and then stood up. He later underwent routine knee surgery that was billed to his group health carrier but he then filed a workers compensation claim.
The Arbitrator awarded benefits, finding the task that caused his injury was work-related. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed the decision, finding that the injury did not “arise out of” Mr. McAllister’s employment because the task “was subjected to a neutral risk which had no particular employment or personal characteristics”. Both the circuit court and the Illinois Court of Appeals agreed that the claim was NOT compensable.
The Illinois Supreme Court, though, reversed and determined that simply kneeling to look for a tray of carrots and standing up from a kneeling position amounted to a compensable injury.
The Supreme Court emphasized that common bodily movements and everyday activities are compensable and employment related if the common bodily movement resulting in an injury had its origin in some risks connected with, or incidental to, employment so as to create a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury. The IL Supreme Court went on to state that even everyday common bodily movements are compensable if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was performing:
- Acts the claimant was instructed to perform by the employer,
- Acts that the claimant had a common-law or statutory duty to perform, or
- Acts that the claimant might reasonably be expected to perform incidental to his or her assigned duties.
ANALYSIS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This decision does not specifically adopt the “Positional Risk Doctrine”, but it is certainly a move in that direction. The “Positional Risk Doctrine” holds that any pain or injury that occurs during work activities, even if the employment did not directly cause the injury, is nevertheless compensable.
At the present time, if you are dealing with a claimed work injury that arises from nothing more than a benign bodily movement during the work day, the investigation and defense should focus on demonstrating the following:
- The claimant was NOT instructed to perform the activity by the employer,
- The claimant did NOT have a common-law or statutory duty to perform the activity, or
- The claimant was NOT reasonably expected to perform the activity in the course of the claimant’s assigned duties.
If you have any specific situations where this decision could impact the compensability of a claim, please let me know and we can discuss this further.