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Illinois work comp case update

By J. Bradley Young, Harris Dowell Fischer & Young L.C.



The Illinois Court of Appeals upheld a denial of compensability in the decision: Purcell v. Ill. Workers' Comp. Comm'n, 2021 IL App (4th) 200359 (Ill. App. Ct. 2021)

Here, claimant was turning in her time card. However, to get to the personnel building, she attempted to “hop” over a chain barrier/fence. The heel of her shoe got caught, and she fell injuring her right shoulder. The claimant admitted that there was no defect with the fence or the ground around it where she fell.

Although the route she took was the most direct route, approximately 10 to 15 feet to the left of where she fell was an area without a fence. She admitted that there were no obstructions or anything else that would have prevented her from taking a route that would have allowed her to avoid the chain fence. She also admitted that it would have been safer to use a route that did not require her to cross the chain, and it would have only taken a couple of extra seconds for that route.

CLAIM NOT COMPENSABLE

The Illinois Court of Appeals upheld the finding of the Commission that this claim is NOT compensable under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, stating:

“The claimant voluntarily hopped over the chain fence when the heel of her shoe got caught and she was injured. This decision exposed her to an unnecessary danger entirely separate from her employment responsibilities. The claimant did not assert that her decision to hop over the chain fence was to avoid any defect or obstruction. Additionally, her decision not to use the walkway, which she testified would have been safer and only taken an extra few seconds, was for her own benefit and not to the benefit of the University. An injury does not arise out of employment where an employee voluntarily exposes herself to an unnecessary personal danger solely for her own convenience. Orsini v. Industrial Comm’n, 117 Ill. 2d 38, 47 (1987); see Hatfill v. Industrial Comm’n, 202 Ill. App. 3d 547, 553 (1990)”

PRACTICE POINTS

Generally speaking, most injuries that occur on an Employer’s property will be compensable if the injury occurs as a result of a defect in the property. However, as in this case, the absence of a defect and the absence of a work-related component to the injury means that the Employer has an opportunity to deny the claim.

If you have any claims where the clamant was injured because he/she voluntarily exposed himself/herself to an unnecessary risk, there may be strong defenses to the compensability of that claim.

If you have any questions about this particular claim or have any questions about how this decision might apply to any of your current claims, please contact Brad Young at byoung@hdfh.com.

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