A PPD impairment rating is NOT required

Corn Belt Energy Corp. v. IWCC, 2016 IL App (3d) 150311WC

By: Megan C. Kivisto - Partner - Nyhan, Bambrick Kinzie & Lowry


Synopsis: The Court interpreted Section 8.1b and held submission of a PPD impairment rating is not a prerequisite to an award of PPD benefits. 


Facts: Petitioner was a lineman. On the date of his accident, he was assigned to string wire in a residential area. He drove his work truck to the site and parked in a ditch on an angle; he had to twist and rotate to exit the truck and felt a pull in his back. The next day, Petitioner sought treatment with his chiropractor; the records established Petitioner had received chiropractic treatment in the past, most recently the month before his accident. At arbitration, the pre- and post-accident chiropractic treatment records were submitted into evidence but no PPD impairment rating was conducted or offered into evidence.


The arbitrator found Claimant sustained strains to his spine, determined his condition of ill-being was causally connected to his accident, and awarded 3% loss of the person as a whole under §8(d)2. On review, the Commission found a PPD rating report was not required for purposes of determining permanent disability; instead, “we find that the Act simply requires that if an AMA rating report has been provided, then the Commission must consider it, along with all other criteria listed, when determining permanent disability.” The Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator’s decision. 


On appeal, the employer made two principle arguments: 1) Petitioner failed to establish causal connection, and 2) Section 8.1b imposes a requirement on a petitioner to tender a PPD impairment report and in the absence of such, PPD cannot be awarded. 


In rejecting the employer’s causal connection argument, the Court reaffirmed causation may be established under a “chain of events” analysis. The Court then turned to the employer’s contention that the PPD award should be vacated for noncompliance with §8.1b. The Court indicated this was an issue of statutory interpretation. After highlighting the language in §8.1b, the Court found the Commission’s interpretation was reasonable. Looking to subsection (a), which it emphasized was addressed only to the physician preparing a PPD impairment report, the Court noted there is “no language which obligates either a claimant or an employer to submit a PPD report.” As to subsection (b), which is addressed only to the Commission, the Court highlighted there is no language “requir[ing] any action to be taken by either a claimant or an employer” nor “limiting the Commission’s ability to award PPD benefits in the absence of a PPD impairment report.” Therefore, the Court interpreted the provision as follows:


Clearly, the plain language of section 8.1b places no explicit requirement on either party. Nor does it make the submission of a PPD impairment report a prerequisite to an award of PPD benefits by the Commission. Rather, the section speaks in terms of what factors the Commission is required to consider when determining the appropriate level of PPD. Corn Belt Energy Corp., 2016 IL App (3d) 150311WC, ¶47. 


Noting this construction was consistent with its recent holding in Continental Tire of the Americas, LLC v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2015 IL App (5th) 140445WC, the Court held a PPD impairment report is not a prerequisite to an award of PPD:


Under the Act, a PPD impairment report may be submitted by either party. Further, when one is admitted into evidence, it must be considered by the Commission, along with other identified factors, in determining the claimant's level of PPD. None of the factors set forth in section 8.1b is to be the sole determinant of the claimant's disability. Further, nothing in the plain language of the Act precludes a PPD award when no PPD impairment report is submitted by either party. Consequently, we reject this contention by the employer. Corn Belt Energy Corp., 2016 IL App (3d) 150311WC, ¶49 (Emphasis added.) 


Impact on Illinois Employers: Obviously this resolves the question of whether a PPD impairment rating is necessary. In answering in the negative, the Court has relieved petitioners of this potential expense. 

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