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I&F Prevails where Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Finding that Firefighter’s Need for New Knee Not Related to Work Accident

Our office is pleased to report the receipt of a favorable Decision from the Illinois Appellate Court, First District.  In this case, the petitioner, a firefighter/paramedic, sustained a compensable work related accident injuring his right knee and underwent surgery.  Following surgery, therapy, and an FCE, his treating doctor found him at MMI. Four months later, the petitioner returned to the doctor who noted end-stage degenerative changes and recommended a  total knee replacement (TKR). Our client denied the need for the TKR based on the opinion of our IME, who opined that the accident only temporarily aggravated the chondromalacia and that the need for a TKR was not related to the accident.  The case proceeded to trial and the arbitrator found the petitioner’s right knee condition causally related to the work accident and awarded prospective medical care including a total knee replacement and further found our IME opinion to be not persuasive. She further awarded over 100 weeks of TTD benefits.

After oral argument, the Commission disagreed with the decision of the Arbitrator and found that the petitioner had evidence of bone-on-bone anterior compartment osteoarthritis at the time of surgery.  The Commission further found the petitioner was at MMI on February 17, 2012, despite indications that there was significant arthritis which would severely impact his ability to work as a firefighter. The Commission relied on the opinion of the IME that the work accident only temporarily aggravated the petitioner’s  pre-existing chondromalacia.  The Commission concluded that the petitioner reached MMI on February 17, 2012 and awarded only 30 weeks of TTD benefits.  The Commission further vacated the award for prospective medical care including the knee replacement.

The petitioner took this case to the Circuit Court of Cook County where the decision of the Commission was affirmed.  The petitioner then appealed the matter to the Appellate Court. Following the filing of briefs and the oral argument, the Appellate Court unanimously agreed to confirm the decision of the Circuit Court and Commission.  In the decision, the Court affirmed the Circuit Court’s judgment, confirming the Commission’s decision and remanding the matter to the Commission for further proceedings. The Court found that there was evidence that claimant’s work-related accident caused only a temporary aggravation to a preexisting degenerative knee condition and no evidence directly linking claimant’s current condition of ill-being in his right knee (and his need for knee arthroscopy) to the work-related accident. The Court found that the Commission’s determination of no causal connection was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The Court further found the IME’s opinion as to MMI credible, persuasive, and supported by the medical records. Therefore, it found that the record supported the Commission’s finding that claimant was only entitled to TTD benefits from July 20, 2011, through February 17, 2012, and its decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence The court also found that there was no evidence in the record that petitioner’s need for prospective medical care is related to his work injury.

The Appellate Court’s decision provides a significant savings for our client in regard to TTD benefits as well as  future medical expenses including the need for a total knee replacement.

Congratulations to attorney Jill Baker for the excellent result.  Jill works out of the Chicago and St. Louis offices of Inman and Fitzgibbons and can be reached at jbaker@inmanfitzgibbons.com.

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