Village of  Deerfield v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

 Jan. 23, 2015
By: Cody D. Hartman

Petitioner was a public works employee for the Village of Deerfield. On February 28, 2005, he sustained a bilateral shoulder injury after he threw a scrap light pole into a truck. Petitioner sustained a second accident on August 9, 2005 while driving a lawn tractor. Petitioner injured his cervical and lumbar spine. Petitioner then claimed a third accident on January 12, 2006. He alleged injury to aggravated his left shoulder, left trapezius, and neck while pulling holiday lights.

The Arbitrator awarded Petitioner 25% loss of use of the left arm and 15% loss of use of the right arm under Section 8(e)10 relative to Petitioner’s February 2005 claim. The Arbitrator awarded Petitioner wage differential benefits under Section 8(d)1 for Petitioner’s August 2005 injury. The Arbitrator awarded no benefits for Petitioner’s January 2006 injury.

Respondent appealed to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In accordance with the holding in Will County Forest Preserve v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2012 IL App (3d) 110077WC, the Commission held when a claimant sustains a work-related injury to the shoulder, benefits are proper under Section 8(d)2, as opposed to Section 8(e).The Commission converted the permanent partial disability from a specific loss of the arm award to a person-as-a-whole award under Section 8(d)2 of the Act, however, otherwise affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s decision. The circuit court of Lake County confirmed the Commission’s decision.

The issue before the Appellate Court was whether a Petitioner can be compensated under Section 8(d)2 and 8(d)1, where Petitioner has sustained two separate and distinct injuries to the same body part, if there is one condition of ill-being. Respondent argued Petitioner sustained two separate and distinct injuries to the same body part and received a dual award under Section 8(d). Respondent argued Petitioner can receive either 8(d)2 or 8(d)1 benefits, but not both.

The Appellate Court reviewed prior case law, including Baumgardner v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 409 Ill. App. 3d 274, 947 N.E.2d 856 (2011), and City of Chicago v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 409 Ill. App. 3d 258, 947 N.E.2d 863(2011). Both Baumgardner and City of Chicago involved injuries to the same body part. For example, in Baumgardner, petitioner injured his right knee in April 1996 and May 1998. Petitioner was awarded benefits under Section 8(d)2 and 8(d)1. The Appellate Court in Baumgardner and City of Chicago refused to allow the claimants to recover under both 8(d)1 and 8(d)2 of the Act. The Court held that these cases were inapplicable because although the shoulder and spine are both compensable under Section 8(d)2 of the Act, they are injuries to distinct and separate parts of the body. 

The Appellate Court noted Petitioner’s February 2005 injury was to his bilateral shoulders, and Petitioner’s August 2005 injury was to the spine. The February injury resulted in an award under 8(d)2. The second accident precluded the Petitioner from returning to his regular course of employment. As a result, Petitioner received a wage differential under Section 8(d)1 of the Act because the injury also caused an impairment of earning capacity. Because the ill-being involved two distinct parts of the body, the court held that the two awards were not against the manifest weight of evidence.

 

Impact on Illinois Employers:

The Court’s analysis enumerates several key concepts in Illinois Workers’ Compensation. The first is that injuries involving the shoulder will be resolved under Section 8(d)2 of the Act in accordance with Will County Forest Preserve. Moreover, the court noted that although injuries to the shoulder, neck, are all compensable under 8(d)2 of the Act, they are not all injuries to the same body part merely because they are all injuries to the person-as-a-whole.

The second concept enumerated by the court is that injuries involving the same body part are not entitled to awards under both Section 8(d)1 and 8(d)2. In City of Chicago, petitioner injured his back in 2002 and again in 2004. An Arbitrator awarded 20% under Section 8(d)2 of the Act for the 2002 injury and benefits under 8(d)1 for the 2004 injury. The Appellate Court disagreed. The Court held that:

 

Where a claimant has sustained two separate and distinct injuries to the same body part and the claims are consolidated for hearing and decision, unless there is some evidence presented at the consolidated hearing that would permit the Commission to delineate and apportion the nature and extent of the permanency attributable to each accident, it is proper for the Commission to consider all the evidence presented to determine the nature and extent of the claimant’s permanent disability as of the date of the hearing.

 

Injuries, and subsequent re-injury to the same body part are not both compensable under Section 8(d)1 and 8(d)2 of the Act. In the instant case, the Court noted that injuries that are compensable under Section 8(d)2 of the Act cannot be categorized as the same part of the body.

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