After a Long, Drawn-Out Battle, a Claimant Was Finally Awarded Benefits

After a Long, Drawn-Out Battle, a Claimant Was Finally Awarded Benefits

| Jul 31, 2020 | Firm News

In a case that involved lengthy reviews and appeals, a claimant was finally able to obtain worker’s compensation benefits. See AT&T employee wins benefits for injury while climbing staircase. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 28, Issue 6, May 15, 2020, p. 3.[1] The case discussed in the aforesaid article, Martin v. AT&T, 28 ILWCLB 57 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2020), involved a claimant/employee that had just finished up at work and had signed out at her job for the day, when almost immediately thereafter, she noticed that she had left her private cellphone behind on her desk in her office. As the claimant walked back up the stairs to the floor in the building where her office was located, to recover her phone, the claimant tripped on a step that either was missing a strip of non-slip material, and/or alternatively had a rolled-up, elevated strip of said material.[2] As she tried to break her fall, the claimant injured her back when she gripped the staircase railing. The arbitrator denied the claimant benefits, firstly because the claimant had already signed out from work, and was deemed by the arbitrator to have been on a personal errand, when the claimant went back to her office to get her phone.[3] The second reason that the claimant was denied benefits was because the arbitrator determined that the missing strip of nonslip material on the step where the claimant tripped, was of the same height as the surface around the missing strip, thus presumably not constituting enough of a hazard to explain why the claimant tripped.[4] On review, the Commission upheld the decision of the arbitrator, as did the Circuit Court, which is where the case was initially appealed from the Commission. However, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the Circuit Court’s judgment, determining that the claimant was certainly still in the course of her employment when she tripped and fell.[5] Indeed, it had only been a few moments since the claimant had signed out from work, when she became aware of the fact that she did not have her cellphone with her, and had left it at her desk. In terms of whether the fall arose out of the claimant’s employment, the Appellate Court did not decide that issue, and instead remanded that part of the case back to the Commission, for the Commission to decide if the condition of the step caused the claimant to trip, and/or was a contributing factor in causing her to trip.[6] The Commission determined that the unrefuted testimony of the claimant was that she tripped on a rolled-up, raised section of the safety strip on the step, and since the employer was unable to rebut that assertion, the Commission found that the claimant had indeed been caused to trip and fall on the aforementioned raised section of nonslip strip on the step. Thus, the injury suffered by the claimant was deemed to not only have occurred in the course of the claimant’s employment, but it was deemed to have arisen out of her employment as well.[7] One of the ways that this case is instructive is that it serves to illustrate just how long the process of resolution and final awarding of benefits can sometimes take for a claimant.

[1]See AT&T employee wins benefits for injury while climbing staircase. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 28, Issue 6, May 15, 2020, p. 3.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.

Attorney Matthew Ludwinski