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Recent Zero Awards & Significant Wins
Congratulations to the University of Illinois and John Fassola for their successful defense of a claim before Arbitrator Carlson. The claimant suffered a serious ankle injury when she fell on a stairway in the University hospital. There was a dispute whether the stairway was open to the general public or was in an area restricted to employees. However, we were also able to establish that the Petitioner was on her break at the time of her injury, was not rushing, was not carrying anything related to her work, and was not performing any work-related tasks. We also established that the claimant could not specify why she fell, and that she failed to demonstrate that the stairs in question were in any way defective. The Arbitrator found that Petitioner failed to prove that she fell as a result of an increased risk related to her employment. Petitioner opted not to appeal the Arbitrator’s decision.
Congratulations to ASG Staffing and Nigel Smith for their successful defense of a claim before Arbitrator Bocanegra of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The injured worker, working through ASG Staffing, was operating a machine when she felt faint after being exposed to fumes of unknown origin, but suspected to emanate from a nearby vent. Petitioner went to the restroom and sat down to rest. She fell to the floor, sustaining minor bruising and a small laceration to her forehead and nose. She sought treatment for these injuries immediately, and the Respondent paid for her medical treatment. The Arbitrator found Petitioner to be at Maximum Medical Improvement at the time she initially stopped treating, approximately one week after the accident. It was three months later that Petitioner sought more treatment, which the Arbitrator found not to be related. Petitioner was seeking approximately fifty-three thousand dollars in additional medical bills and temporary total disability benefits. The Arbitrator awarded nothing.
Congratulations to Pace Suburban Bus and Elena Cincione for obtaining a favorable decision from Arbitrator Friedman in Vanessa Sims v. Pace Suburban Bus. The case was a repetitive use claim for bilateral carpal tunnel caused by bus driving duties that was fully disputed. Respondent’s Section 12 examining doctor found Petitioner’s carpal tunnel was idiopathic in nature because the duties of a bus driver do not include repetitive the use of vibratory tools or highly repetitive flexion/extension with forceful gripping. Respondent argued that Petitioner failed to present evidence of the following: the amount of force required to perform her duties, that she engaged in highly repetitive flexion/extension with forceful grasping, or that the parts of the bus she was grasping were vibratory in nature. The arbitrator found both that Petitioner failed to prove an accident or that her carpal tunnel was causally related to her employment with Pace.
Congratulations to ASG Staffing and Kirk Kuhns for their successful defense of a claim before Arbitrator Steffenson. Petitioner had compensable right wrist strain, but during treatment his symptoms migrated up the arm and Petitioner sought benefits for a right elbow, arm, and shoulder injury. Respondent denied benefits for these injuries. Ultimately, surgery was recommended. The disputed issue involved whether Petitioner’s right elbow, arm, and shoulder injury was causally related to the compensable work accident and right wrist strain. Respondent was successful in establishing no causation; and therefore, the arbitrator awarded no benefits to Petitioner. Petitioner elected not to appeal the decision.
Congratulations to Ford Motor Company and Adam Rettberg for their successful defense of Branko Boricich v. Ford. Petitioner alleged a work-related left knee injury aggravating his pre-existing osteoarthritis, for which his treating surgeon recommended total knee replacement. Investigation quickly revealed that Petitioner had a decades-long history of prior left knee problems, including multiple prior surgeries, and that the same treating surgeon had recommended a left total knee replacement procedure four years prior to the alleged injury, well before Petitioner came into Ford’s employ, which Petitioner had declined to undergo for unknown reasons. Investigation further revealed that Petitioner appeared to have taken pains to conceal this prior recommendation from Ford at the time of his hiring and from his treating surgeon at the time of the renewed request for treatment. The claim was denied accordingly. At trial, the Petitioner’s lack of credibility was fully explored, and the Arbitrator ultimately found Petitioner to lack full credibility in his testimony. The Arbitrator found that Petitioner had sustained only a minor knee sprain that had resolved within nine days of the alleged work injury, and that his left knee condition had thereafter ceased to be related to a work injury. The total knee replacement was denied, and permanency was awarded in the amount of 1% loss of use of the left leg.
Congratulations to Greg Vogel, Sentry Insurance, Brightstar Corporation, and Daniel Artman on their successful defense of a 19(b)/8(a) Petition before Arbitrator Ory in the case of Victoria Trujillo v. Brightstar Corporation. On July 12, 2016, her second day at work for the Respondent, Petitioner was in a conference room sitting on a high back chair. The chair was on rollers, but the floor was carpeted. Petitioner pushed herself away from the table, and when she did, the chair toppled over. She struck her head on the wall. Petitioner claimed that she was so shaken that she went into the bathroom and threw up, but she did not report that to either of her two co-workers, who were present when she fell. Neither co-worker was a supervisor. Furthermore, she did not report the incident to human resources or her supervisor until September 2016, more than 45 days after her fall. Petitioner called in sick on several occasions between July 12, 2016 and September 2016; however, she never mentioned the fall. Petitioner had treated previously for migraines; however, she did not see her treating neurologist until nearly 8 weeks after the fall. She was taken off work and prescribed medication. She did see her primary care physician in August 2016. She denied any issues with short-term memory or cognitive deficits, which is contrary to her testimony at trial. Furthermore, she did not mention the fall of July 12, 2016. Petitioner was examined at Respondent’s request by Dr. Kessler, who opined that Petitioner did not have a condition of ill-being in relation to her fall, any complaints of symptoms she had after the fall were not causally related to any fall of July 12, 2016 and were exaggerated. At trial issues in dispute included accident, notice, causal connection, medical and TTD. Arbitrator Ory ruled that Petitioner did not suffer an accident arising out of her employment with the Respondent and denied all benefits.
Update: Currently, the matter of DeWayne Walker v. Superior Ambulance is pending decision before the Illinois Appellate Court after arguments on June 20, 2017. Superior Ambulance and Power & Cronin have been successful at all levels through the Circuit Court in disputing Petitioner’s claim for ongoing benefits and demand for vocational rehabilitation. In addition, Mr. Walker was prosecuted by the 18th Judicial Circuit of DuPage County for perjuring himself during his arbitration testimony. On April 19, 2017, Mr. Walker was convicted of a Class 3 Felony perjury. We commend the hard working prosecutors at the County of DuPage for their efforts in returning justice to Superior Ambulance and are heartened that workers’ compensation perjury is being taken seriously by some of our state criminal courts.