Adcock v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission 

By: Susana Kim - Associate - Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry

 

Case Synopsis:
Work injuries from everyday activities should be governed by the neutral risk analysis to determine if the injury arose out of the employment. 

Case Facts:
Claimant, a welder, performed welding tasks from a seated position in a rolling chair due to permanent restrictions related to his right knee. On the date of the accident, Claimant rotated his left knee inward to rotate his body to perform a welding task. He reported that he felt a pop in his left knee and was later diagnosed with a left knee sprain and medial meniscus tear. The arbitrator found that Claimant’s injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. On review, the Commission held that Claimant failed to meet the burden of proving that the accident arose out of the employment, noting that there was no evidence of an employment or neutral risk. On judicial review, the circuit court confirmed the Commission’s decision.

The issue before the appellate court was whether Petitioner’s activities were considered under the neutral risk analysis or were an employment risk. The appellate court found that Claimant met the burden of proof under the neutral risk principle, and work injuries from everyday activities should be governed by a neutral risk analysis.  The court held that Claimant proved that his employment exposed him to the risks inherent in turning in a chair to a greater degree than the general public, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The court reasoned that the facts were undisputed that Claimant had to move and turn in his chair repeatedly and “non-stop” to perform his duties under time pressures. Therefore, the Court found that Claimant’s injury did arise out of his employment.

In a special concurrence, Justice Stewart held that it should be first determined whether the acts causing the injury are connected or required for the employee to fulfill his/her duties.  If so, it is an employment risk as the activities are distinctly associated with the employment. This analysis would be consistent with the court’s analysis and holding in Youngv. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2014 IL App (4th) 130392WC and Autumn Accolade v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2013 IL App (3d) 120588WC.

Impact on Illinois Employers:
Adcock represents a slight deviation from prior cases such as Young, wherein the Court suggested that a neutral risk analysis is unnecessary where the employee is injured while performing his or her required work duties more frequently or to a different extent than the general public. The Court noted that the analysis is more complicated than analyzing whether the activity is required by the employee’s job, but the calculus must include a comparison to the general public. If the activity faced by the employee is similar to the general public the analysis must progress whether the risk faced by the employee occurred more frequently than members of the general public. In defending claims similar to the above, a defense must not only note that the risk is neutral, but also that the employee did not incur the risk as frequently as the general public.

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