The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that workers’ compensation can apply to everyday acts if the acts might be reasonably expected to be performed in fulling their assigned job duties.
In a September 24 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (“IWCC”) should not have denied benefits to a sous-chef who was injured while helping another co-worker search for a missing item. Kevin McAllister, who worked at North Pond in Lincoln Park, injured his knee while moving to a standing position. The injury subsequently left him without pay for 5 weeks.
An arbitrator ultimately awarded McAllister with disability benefits, medical costs, and required his employer to pay for his legal fees and penalties for refusal to pay benefits. The employer appealed to the IWCC which reversed the arbitrator’s decision stating it was an everyday act. McAllister appealed his way to the highest court in Illinois which reinstated the arbitrator’s original award.
Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. wrote the decision on September 24, 2020 stating, “The acts that caused the claimant’s knee injury were risks incident to his employment because these were acts his employer might reasonably expect him to perform.” Additionally, Justice Neville pointed back to a previously ruling to formulate his decision citing Caterpillar Tractor v. Illinois Industrial Commission which indicates that everyday movements giving rise to injury should be compensated if there is a connection to employment.
The court overruled previous decisions that held that injuries attributable to common bodily movements or routine everyday activities, such as bending, twisting, reaching, or standing up from a kneeling position, are not compensable unless a claimant could prove that they were exposed to a risk of injury from common bodily movements or routine everyday activities to a greater extent than the general public.