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Recent Appellate Court Decisions
In Corn Belt Energy Corp. v IWCC, 3-15-0311WC, (3rd Dist. 2016) the Worker's Compensation Commission Division of the Third District Appellate Court ruled the IWCC failed to explain the weight it attributed to each permanency factor when determining the petitioner's level of disability. The IWCC and circuit court were reversed in part and the case remanded back to the IWCC.
In Corn Belt Energy the petitioner suffered a work related low back strain. The arbitrator awarded medical expenses and permanency of 3% man as a whole. The IWCC and circuit court affirmed the arbitrator's award.
The employer appealed to the appellate court. Part of the employer's argument was that the IWCC’s award of permanency was erroneous because the petitioner failed to introduce an AMA impairment report. The employer also argued that the IWCC failed to specify the weight that it gave the remaining factors identified in section 8.1b(b) of the Act.
The Worker's Compensation Commission Division of the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the claimant was not required to enter a PPD impairment report into evidence in order to obtain a permanency award. However the appellate court did rule that the IWCC failed to specify the weight it gave to the five factors enumerated in section 8.1b of the Act. The cause was remanded back to the IWCC to allow the IWCC to specify the weight given to each of the five permanency factors.
Section 8.1b of the Act mentions that the IWCC shall base its permanency award on the following factors:
No single enumerated factor shall be the sole determinant of disability. Section 8.1 of the Act requires the IWCC to explain in written order the relevance and weight of the factors considered in determining permanency.
Section 8.1b does not contain any language which obligates either a claimant or employer to submit a PPD impairment report. This section contains no language limiting the Commission's ability to award permanency benefits when no report is submitted.
If a PPD impairment report is submitted by either party and must be considered by the IWCC along with the other factors. In this particular case the IWCC failed to comply with section 8.1b by failing to explain the relevance and weight of the factors it used to determine the claimant's level of disability. The relevance and weight of the five factors used in addition to the level of impairment must be explained by the IWCC in the decision. In this case the IWCC did not explain the relevance or weight attributed to each factor when determining the petitioner's level of disability. The IWCC failed to comply with Section 8.1b of the Act. The commission's permanency award was reversed and remanded back to the IWCC for compliance with section 8.1b of the Act.
Justice Hoffman's dissenting opinion reasoned that Section 8.1b of the Act requires that an AMA impairment rating report be filed in the IWCC before permanency can be considered.
Editor's note: Adjusters and practitioners are now aware that permanency can be awarded by the IWCC in the absence of an AMA impairment rating report. This decision emphasizes that the arbitrator's decision needs to explain the relevance and weight of the five factors used in determining the level of impairment. Practitioners should include and explain in detail the proposed relevance and weight of the five permanency factors when drafting their proposed decision for the arbitrator.