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Another case in which a claimant could not prove that her injury was related to her job

| Feb 8, 2021 | Firm News |

In a case with what must have been a disappointing outcome for a claimant seeking benefits, the claimant was unable to prove that her injuries arose out of her employment. See Spa employee fails to secure benefits for alleged injury while getting massage. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 28, Issue 16, November 13, 2020, p.2.[1] The case discussed in the article, Magistro v. Mario Tricoci, 28 ILWCLB 166 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2020), involved a claimant that was employed as a hair stylist, and who also, due to having some available time at work, volunteered to receive a free massage from a massage therapist undergoing training, at the spa where both the claimant and the therapist were employed. She received her massage, and then apparently gave the therapist high marks for giving a good rubdown (or at least did not give the therapist a bad review).[2] However, shortly thereafter, the claimant asserted that the therapist injured the claimant’s back during the massage, and/or exacerbated the claimant’s preexistent back issues, and the claimant then filed a claim for benefits, in which the claimant averred that her back injuries arose out of her employment at the spa, because of the free massage. The claimant also later underwent fusion surgery of some of her spinal vertebrae as well, but at the arbitration hearing, the Arbitrator was dismissive of the claimant’s assertions, and upon reviewing evidence presented at trial, including the claimant’s medical records and the testimony of various witnesses, such as the spa’s manager, the Arbitrator denied benefits to the claimant.[3] The Arbitrator determined that the claimant was not credible, firstly because it was demonstrated that the claimant had been suffering from her aforesaid back-related problems for a long time prior to undergoing the massage, with said back issues also being found to be unrelated to her employment. Moreover, agreeing to the massage was not required by her employer, and the claimant herself admitted that she would not have gotten into trouble if she refused to receive the massage (other workers had either participated or refused to participate, with no negative outcomes for their employment either).[4] The claimant appealed, but the Commission affirmed the denial of benefits, holding, as did the Arbitrator, that since the massage was not required or mandatory for the claimant, it was not incidental or connected to her employment, and further affirmed the Arbitrator’s findings that the claimant’s back issues could not be shown to be related to or have arisen from the massage.[5] This must have been annoying for the claimant, but this case illustrates some of the obstacles that claimants generally face, when they pursue claims for workers’ compensation benefits. Indeed, the claimants must demonstrate both that their injuries at work, and the activities giving rise to said injuries, arose from and/or were related to their employment. If they are unable to convincingly do either one of these things, then their claims can and will fail, both at arbitration and/or with the Commission.

[1]See Spa Employee fails to secure benefits for alleged injury while getting massage. Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 28, Issue 16, November 13, 2020, p.2.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.

Attorney Matthew Ludwinski