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Illinois Court Decision Impacts Work Injury Cases Involving Everyday Activities

Published on Oct 6, 2020 at 2:33 pm in Workers' Compensation.

In a recent ruling, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that an employee’s injuries from everyday activities, like bending, kneeling, and reaching, are compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. This, however, will only be the case if the employee is reasonably expected to perform those actions incidental to their assigned duties.

The decision came after Kevin McAllister, the claimant, injured his right knee while he was working as a sous-chef at a restaurant in Illinois. His job duties included checking in orders, arranging the walk-in cooler, and preparing and cooking food.

On the date of the accident, McAllister was preparing his station for the evening shift. He was looking for missing carrots when he knelt down on the floor of the walk-in. When standing up from the kneeling position, McAllister felt his knee pop and lock up. He was unable to straighten it. His general manager drove him to the hospital. He was off work from August 7 to September 15, 2014, but he did not receive workers’ compensation benefits during that time.

When McAllister sought benefits the arbitrator awarded them, finding that looking for misplaced carrots in the walk-in cooler was an act that the employer could reasonably expect someone of his position to perform in order to fulfill his duties. Therefore, the knee injury occurred within the scope of employment. The employer, however, asked for a review of that decision with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission determined that McAllister failed to prove that his injury arose out of his employment because the injury happened because of a neutral risk.

When the Illinois Supreme Court looked at the matter, a test was used to analyze whether an injury arises out of employment when the claimant was performing common bodily movements or routine everyday activities. The test contains two elements. First, it has to be shown that the injury occurred in the course of employment. Second, it has to be shown that the injury arose of employment. In the course of employment refers to time, place, and circumstances, while arising out of employment means the injury has to originate from a risk connected with or incidental to the employment.

In McAllister’s case, the employer did not dispute that the injury occurred while the claimant was performing job duties. In regard to the second element, the Court explained that common bodily movements and everyday activities are compensable and employment-related when the activity that caused the injury had its origin in risk connected with employment. The Court found that McAllister’s injury resulted from a directly associated risk with his employment and was compensable, but the Court held that the Commission’s findings that McAllister was injured by a neutral risk.

As a result of this case, it will be easier for claimants who were doing everyday activities when they got injured at work to prove they are owed compensation. If you have questions regarding this decision or a potential case you may have, contact Schweickert Ganassin Krzak Rundio, LLP today.

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