Brais v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission 
By: Katie S. Lonze - Associate - Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry 

 

The claimant was employed as a child support coordinator by Kankakee County; her office was located at the Kankakee County Courthouse.  On December 20, 2006 at 11:00 a.m., the claimant was returning to her office from a work meeting at the administration building located approximately two blocks from the courthouse.  Because the employee entrance of the courthouse was locked at 9:30 a.m., the claimant’s only access to her work area was through the front door.  When the claimant was less than two feet from the stairway leading to the front entrance to the courthouse her heel caught in a badly cracked and uneven part of the sidewalk causing her to fall and sustain serious injuries to her left wrist. The arbitrator found that the claimant was not entitled to benefits because the accident occurred while she was walking on a public sidewalk which placed her at no greater risk than the general public and the risk was not peculiar to her work.  The Commission affirmed as did the circuit court. 

The Appellate Court reversed and awarded claimant benefits holding that the facts were undisputed that the claimant’s accident occurred in an area that was the sole access point to her office and the route had a special risk or hazard (a cracked and uneven sidewalk) that caused the fall.  The Appellate Court noted that the claimant’s presence on the sidewalk approaching the steps to the front door of the courthouse was occasioned by the demands of her employment, which required her to attend meetings in the administration building; the claimant did not freely choose a certain route; and the front door was the only access point. In such circumstances, when there is a special risk or hazard on the route, the hazard becomes part of the employment. The special hazards or risks encountered as a result of using the sole or usual access route satisfy the arising out of requirement of the Act.  The claimant was therefore entitled to benefits as a matter of law.

 

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