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Municipality’s Refusal to Pay Benefits Warrants Imposition of Penalties & Fees

by | Jul 26, 2021 | Firm News |

Municipality’s Refusal to Pay Benefits Warrants Imposition of Penalties & Fees
In yet another case where a municipality refused to pay an employee’s worker’s compensation benefits, both the arbitrator and the Commission held that the respondent had no justification for its refusal to pay the claimant’s benefits, and therefore ordered the respondent to pay penalties and fees. See City’s lack of medical evidence or witnesses justifies assessment of penalties, fees. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 7, June 11, 2021, p.7.[1] This is not the first time that I have written about this kind of case, since about three weeks ago, I wrote about another municipality’s failure to pay a claimant’s benefits. See City’s failure to pay claimant’s medical bills warrants § 19(l) penalty. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 7, June 11, 2021, p.8.[2] In the aforesaid case that I discussed earlier this month, Diaz v. Harvey Police Dept., 29 ILWCLB 77 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), the municipal respondent asserted that it lacked the available funds to pay the claimant’s billing and other benefits.[3] Both the arbitrator and the Commission were unconvinced, and they assessed penalties against the respondent, holding that its claimed inability to benefits was made in bad faith and without good cause.[4] In the instant case being discussed in this week’s article, Daciolas v. Chicago, City of, 29 ILWCLB 76 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), the claimant, a worker for the Chicago Forestry Department, was severely injured four times, over a period of three years, and was awarded temporary total disability benefits, as well as the payment by the respondent of the claimant’s medical billing.[5] The claimant’s injuries were proven to have arisen out of his employment (and he still required treatment and was not at maximum medical improvement), so there was no reason for the respondent to refuse to pay the claimant’s benefits, especially since the respondent’s own medical examiners testified that the claimant needed continued treatment, and also since the respondent called no witnesses to refute the claimant’s testimony regarding his injuries, either.[6] In addition to finding for the claimant at hearing, the arbitrator also assessed Section 19(k) and 19(l) penalties against the respondent, and ordered payment of the claimant’s attorney’s fees by the respondent as well, under Section 16. On review, the Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s decision, only partially reducing the Section 19(k) penalties and Section 16 attorney’s fees (and also limited the arbitration award to medical bills entered into evidence).[7]

Unlike in the Diaz case, the respondent in Daciolas offered no excuse or reason for not paying benefits, and it had simply refused to do so. This just shows that sometimes respondents, even municipal ones, may not want to pay benefits, even when ordered and/or obligated to, which can result in severe penalties and fees being assessed against them.

[1]See City’s lack of medical evidence or witnesses justifies assessment of penalties, fees. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 7, June 11, 2021, p.7.
[1]See City’s failure to pay claimant’s medical bills warrants § 19(l) penalty. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 7, June 11, 2021, p.8.
[1]See Id.
[1]See Id.