The Illinois Supreme Court’s recent ruling in a workers’ compensation claim may set a precedent that could allow for “positional risk” to be compensable in the state.
Claimant McAllister Injured Knee by Standing Up
In McAllister v. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the claimant was working as a restaurant sous chef in 2014. McAllister testified that his job required him to arrange food in a walk-in cooler. On the date in question, he hurt his right knee when he moved from a kneeling to a standing position while trying to find a misplaced item in the cooler. There was no assertion of safety failure by his employer, and McAllister said that he did not slip, trip, slide, or suffer trauma. McAllister sustained a right bucket handle meniscus tear and subsequently underwent surgery consisting of an arthroscopy and partial medial meniscectomy.
The Arbitrator in McAllister’s case found in his favor, but the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed that decision and asserted that the injury did not arise out of his employment, citing previous cases concluding that simply standing was a risk common to the general public.
The Circuit and Appellate Courts affirmed this decision, though the Appellate Court was split regarding the extent to which injuries caused by everyday activities were compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The majority favored the analysis contained in Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Industrial Commission, in which a claimant was injured stepping off a street curb to go to his car. However, two Appellate Court justices preferred the analysis in Adcock v. The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission, where the claimant was injured for pivoting in a swivel chair. In Adcock, the Court ruled that the claimant needed to establish that his job duties required him to engage in that everyday activity to a greater degree than the general public, even in situations where the activity was directly related to that person’s job duties.
Illinois Supreme Court Ruling Overturns Earlier Decisions
In its 2020 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the Appellate Court majority and held that Caterpillar Tractor “prescribes the proper test for analyzing whether an injury ‘arises out of’ a claimant’s employment when a claimant is injured performing job duties involving common bodily movements or routine everyday activities.” Nevertheless, the Supreme Court still awarded McAllister workers’ compensation benefits. The Court explained that Caterpillar Tractor found that everyday activities and bodily movements at or near the workplace are compensable if the activity that caused the injury “had its origin in some risks connected with, or incidental to, employment so as to create a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury.”
The Court further overruled Adcock for requiring that a claimant additionally prove that he or she was exposed to a risk of injury to a greater extent than the general public. The Court also found that McAllister’s injury was the result of a risk distinctly associated with his employment and therefore was compensable.
Legal analysts note that the Court’s decision may put Illinois in line with other states that observe a “positional risk” standard. In those states, if employees are “positioned” at work when they suffer pain, they may be eligible for benefits because they are at work, regardless of the cause. Historically, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act has required injuries to be both “arising out of” and “in the course of” employment, not simply “in the course of” employment, for them to be work-related. Under a less stringent standard, injured employees could potentially be more likely to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois.
Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Fighting for Chicago Employees
As you can see, obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be a long process for claimants in Illinois. For this reason, injured employees could benefit from the services of persistent legal representation who will stop at nothing to get them what they are owed under Illinois law, like the workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. For more than four decades, our Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers have been fighting for injured employees in virtually every profession. GWC has the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success needed to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
If you have been injured in the workplace, contact GWC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.