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On Wednesday, November 27, Arbitrator Pritzker appointed six new Arbitrators to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The new Arbitrators will begin serving in the near future, although the appointments will ultimately be subject to Senate approval. The new appointments will hopefully help relieve some of the recent difficulties in moving cases to hearing at the IWCC.
The newly appointed Arbitrators are:
Joseph D. Amarilio of Buffalo Grove – Mr. Amarilio currently works as a partner at Elfenbaum, Evers, Amarilio and Zielinska, representing injured workers and their families. In addition, he has worked as an attorney at Amarilio and Weinstein, Jack Ring and Associates, McKenna, Storer, Rowe, White and Farrug, as well as his own namesake firm. Amarilio also spent time at the Cook County Mandatory Arbitration Program as the Chair Qualified Arbitrator. He is a member of Workers' Injury Law and Advocacy Group, Workers' Compensation Lawyers Association and the Illinois Trial Lawyers' Association. Amarilio earned his Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University and his Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School.
Deborah J. Baker, of Chicago – Ms. Baker currently serves as Assistant Deputy Chief Legal Counsel and Ethics Officer for the Illinois Department of Corrections. Previously, she worked at UpRight Law as Litigation and Compliance Counsel, and Goldberg, Weisman and Cairo as an associate attorney. In addition, Baker has served as Assistant Attorney General at the Office of the Illinois Attorney General from 2016 to 2017 and worked for the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission as an administrative appeals staff attorney. She is a member of the Black Woman Lawyers Association, Salt and Light Coalition, Cabrini Green Legal Aid Board of Directors, Chicago Bar Association and Loyola University Chicago School of Law Diversity Council. Baker earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Mexico, Master of Arts from Loyola University Chicago, and Juris Doctor from Loyola University.
Adam Hinrichs, of Geneseo – Mr. Hinrichs spent eight years practicing law and now manages a multi-unit vacation rental property and volunteers at the Genesco Community Center. He most recently served as an equity partner at Elfenbaum, Evers and Amarilio from 2007 to 2014, where he handled every aspect of case management, including appeals and arbitrations with the Workers' Compensation Commission. He previously worked as a contract attorney for Legal People. Hinrichs was a member of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and Workers Compensation Lawyers Association from 2008 to 2014. Hinrichs earned his Bachelor of Arts in economics and management from Beloit College and his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law.
Elaine Llerena, of Chicago – Ms. Llerena currently works as a staff attorney for Seyfarth Shaw LLP. Previously, she worked as a staff attorney for the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, associate for Beaulieu Law Offices, law clerk for the City of Chicago and research assistant for the John Marshall Law School. Llerena earned her Bachelor of Science from Florida State University and her Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School.
William J. McLaughlin, of Tinley Park – Mr. McLaughlin currently works as an attorney for his namesake firm McLaughlin Law Group. Previously, he worked as a staff attorney at the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, an Assistant State's Attorney at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and an associate at Delano Law Offices. In addition, McLaughlin is a member of the Southwest, Chicago, Illinois State, South Suburban and Northern District of Illinois Bar Associations. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from St. Xavier College and his Juris Doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Dennis S. O’Brien, of Springfield – Mr. O'Brien currently works as Vice President and Secretary of Livingston, Mueller, O'Brien and Davlin. Previously, he worked as an Assistant State's Attorney for the Felony Division of Lake County, Assistant State's Attorney for Sangamon County, and a reporter for the Capitol Information Bureau. O'Brien is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Sangamon County Bar Association, Leading Lawyers Network, Illinois Industrial Commission Downstate Committee, Lincoln-Douglas American Inn Court and the Board of Trustees for the Springfield Municipal Opera. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dominican University and his Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago.
In recent weeks, the Workers’ Compensation Commission has announced the appointment of two new Arbitrators and a new Commissioner. Information about the new appointees follows. Please note that the Commission is now running with three full panels of Commissioners, which will hopefully assist in clearing a backlog of cases on Review. However, there are still estimated to be six additional Arbitrator positions to be filled.
Kathryn Doerries has been appointed to serve as a Commissioner on Panel A, with Commissioners Tyrrell and Portela. Ms. Doerries was employed as a Disciplinary Officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. Previously, she worked for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in the Industrial Commission Bureau initially as an Assistant Attorney General and rising to the level of Bureau Chief. In her time at the Attorney General’s Office, Ms. Doerries defended state agencies before the IWCC. She also represented the IWCC in insurance non-compliance matters before the Circuit Court of Cook County. Ms. Doerries received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and her law degree from UIC John Marshall Law School.
Linda Cantrell of downstate Marion has been appointed to an Arbitrator position. She has been an attorney for Winters, Brewster, Crosby and Schaffer. She formerly worked as a legal secretary at Mertz Law Firm. She earned her Bachelor of Science from St. Louis University and Juris Doctor from the Southern Illinois School of Law.
Christopher Harris of Chicago was also appointed to an Arbitrator position. He was managing attorney and owner of Shield Law Firm LLC. Previously, he served as general counsel at International Services, associate attorney at Archer Law Group and an attorney at his own firm Johnson and Harris. Mr. Harris earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Illinois and his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law.
I. - Workers’ Compensation Commission
Chairman: Commissioner Michael Brennan replaces outgoing Chairman Joann Frattiani
Commissioner Public Member: Arbitrator Barbara Flores replaces outgoing Commissioner Michael Brennan
Commissioner Labor Member: Attorney Marc Parker replaces outgoing Commissioner Charles Devriendt
Commissioner Public Member: Attorney Maria Portela replaces outgoing Commissioner Joshua Luskin
Commissioner Labor Member: Arbitrator Doug McCarthy replaces outgoing Commissioner David Gore
Commissioner Business Member: Commissioner Kevin Lamborn’s appointment expired. No replacement has been appointed yet.
II. - Workers’ Compensation Commission Act
Many bills have been filed with the House and the Senate and are pending disposition at this time. Two of these bills have moved and are of serious interest.
1. Senate Bill 1596 has passed the Senate and the House and awaits the Governor’s veto or signature. The official synopsis is as follows:
Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. Provides that specified Sections limiting recovery do not apply to injuries or death resulting from an occupational disease as to which the recovery of compensation benefits under the Act would be precluded due to the operation of any period of repose or repose provision. Provides that, as to any such injury occupational disease, the employee, the employee’s heirs, and any such person having the standing under law to bring a civil action at law has the nonwaivable right to bring such an action against any employer or employers. Effective immediately.
Please note that SB 1596 weakens the exclusive remedy under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Additionally, there is a question of coverage for this new section under existing policies.
2. House Bill 2480 is a bill that generally affects the rebuttable presumption principally dealing with the fire service, EMT and paramedic. The official synopsis is as follows:
Amends the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act. Includes Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in the list of ailments giving rise to a rebuttable presumption that the ailment arose out of employment of firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. Provides that the presumption is intended to shift the burden of proof and requires clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption. Contains applicability provisions. Excludes firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics from certain limitations on recovery for hearing loss. Effective immediately.
HB 2480 is in the House having passed out of Committee. This bill will enhance compensability in the already bedeviling rebuttable presumption section which presumes that cancer, vascular disease, etc. arise out of and in the course of employment and are causally related to the employment. With the advent of this section, the employer will be required to rebut the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. “Clear and convincing” is a higher standard of proof than our current standard of more likely than not, but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.
Stay tuned, we anticipate more activity on both of these fronts.