Important New Decision from Illinois Supreme Court
On September 24, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision which arguably redefines the context by which everyday activities may be deemed as compensable workplace accidents. In McAllister v. IWCC, 2020 IL 124848, a sous-chef claimed a knee injury from kneeling and standing in a food cooler looking for a tray of carrots. The Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court, finding that the action of kneeling and getting up to look for food was for the benefit of the employer, reasonable and foreseeable, and a risk incidental to the employment.
This case expands the definition of risks distinctly associated with employment to include activities which would typically be considered a neutral risk. Previously, neutral risks (i.e. risks not specifically linked to the employment) were weighed under an analysis of whether the employment created either a qualitative or quantitative risk above that of the general public. However, under the McAllister decision, neutral risk activities such as bending, kneeling and standing can be characterized as risks distinctly associated with employment or “incidental to the employment” if the activity is reasonably foreseeable or done for the benefit of the employer. If the risk is deemed incidental to employment, there is no need to consider whether the activity is of a greater degree or frequency than that experienced by the general public in an activity of daily living.
The repercussions of this new case law will need to be closely evaluated. We are concerned that the case law, if given a broad interpretation, may cover seemingly innocuous activities such as reaching or bending for an object. More than ever, it is important to closely evaluate the facts of each alleged incident to make an appropriate compensability determination, and to promptly investigate the specific factors of any reported accident. As always, our attorneys stand ready to assist you in interpreting the implications of this revised legal standard. Please contact us with any questions.