I&F Scores a Victory in Repetitive Trauma Claim

Illinois employers are well-aware of the difficulties and expense posed by repetitive trauma claims.  Inman and Fitzgibbons is  happy to report that we recently prevailed at trial on just such a claim. 

 In this case, the petitioner, a counselor at a correctional facility, was claiming a right-sided carpal tunnel claim which required a surgical release.  Her doctor also testified that the petitioner required a revision of a prior ulnar nerve surgery and causally related the need for both of these procedures to the repetitive performance of petitioner’s work activities.

The respondent’s examining physician opined that the petitioner did not require additional ulnar surgery, had no evidence of carpal tunnel and that, even if one were to assume that the petitioner did suffer from those condition, they would not be related to the performance of the job duties. 

At trial, the petitioner testified that she suffered from right hand and upper extremity pain as a result of the claimed work injury.  The extent of the petitioner’s testimony at trial as to the job duties was as follows:

  • Data processing;
  • Teaching class 2 days per week;
  • Handwriting on a blackboard;
  • Keeping databases for Life Skills referrals;
  • Opening 50 or more doors; and,
  • Stapling.

Given the limited testimony of the petitioner at trial we did not ask detailed questions with respect to the petitioner’s job duties so as not to give her the opportunity to establish that she engaged in any type of repetitive activity.  Accordingly, the Arbitrator found that petitioner failed to describe her job duties with a degree of specificity which would have allowed him to render any findings on causation in her favor.  The Arbitrator noted that the petitioner testified to only broad job duties and activities and failed to provide and quantitative evidence which would allow any finder of fact to examine whether these activities were repetitive.

The Arbitrator also held that the deposition testimony of the treating doctor did not evidence a sufficient knowledge of the petitioner’s job which would have allowed him to render a credible opinion on this issue.

The Arbitrator specifically noted that on cross-examination the treating doctor conceded the following:

  • He had no idea as to whether the petitioner was a part-time or full-time employee;
  • He had no idea of the petitioner’s work schedule;
  • He did not know exactly how much writing the petitioner was called to do;
  • He did not know if the petitioner wrote with a pen or a pencil;
  • He had no idea as to the specific type of “computer work” that the petitioner was called to do;
  • The petitioner did not tell him that she did data entry;
  • He had no idea how long the petitioner was called to work on a computer each day;
  • The petitioner did not describe to him in detail either what symptoms were increased by the performance of her job duties or which job duties increased those symptoms. 

As to the issue of whether an accident occurred that arose out of and in the course of the petitioner’s employment with the respondent, the Arbitrator adopted the testimony of and opinions of the respondent’s expert and found that the petitioner had no objective evidence of either carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel syndrome. 

In summary the Arbitrator held :

  • the petitioner failed to establish that an accident occurred that arose out of and in the course of her employment with the respondent; and,
  • the petitioner failed to establish that she suffers from any condition of ill-being which is causally related to her injury. 

As such, the requested treatment ordered by the treating doctor was denied as was any other benefit.  The petitioner did not appeal the Arbitrator’s Decision.

Congratulations to Kevin Deuschle for the excellent outcome.  This case clearly illustrates how good expert examinations and depositions combined with a well laid trial strategy will produce superior results.  We welcome the opportunity to pursue similar results for all of our clients.

If you are an employer, insurer, or third-party administrator and have any questions about the services we provide, please contact us.

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