Inman & Fitzgibbons recently prevailed before the Illinois Appellate Court, where the Court found that that a problems surrounding the petitioner’s credibility and circumstances of the accident supported a finding that no accident occurred.
The petitioner alleged that he had fallen down 10-15 concrete stairs. However, the timing of the petitioner’s allegations was suspicious, as on the very day of the accident he had been disciplined and suspended. He had originally stated that he might resign in response to the resignation, but later told the employer that he would like to keep working there. Respondent’s witness gave key testimony regarding the disciplinary problems with the petitioner and other suspicious aspects of the petitioner’s claim, testifying that he had reason to doubt whether the accident had occurred.
Additionally, the petitioner’s decision to take the stairs instead of the elevator was particularly unusual given the age, weight, and past knee surgeries that this petitioner had undergone. Another key piece of evidence was that, in spite of allegedly falling down so many concrete stairs, the petitioner’s initial medical records established that he did not have any bruising, cuts, or any signs of acute trauma whatsoever.
An MRI, taken approximately a month and a half after the accident, did show pathology in the petitioner’s lumbar spine, however, the Appellate Court correctly found that this pathology alone did not establish that the petitioner had actually suffered an accident, especially in light of the lack of contemporaneous objective medical evidence of trauma.
The Arbitrator found in favor of the petitioner, however, the Commission took into consideration the entirety of the records and decided that the petitioner had failed to prove that he suffered an accident. The Circuit Court reversed the Commission Decision, though the Appellate Court ultimately agreed with Respondent’s arguments.
In particular, the Appellate Court agreed that the manifest weight of the evidence supported the finding that the claimed mechanism of injury lack credibility, in light of the medical records proving that the petitioner did not suffer any bruising or physical indications that would be consistent with falling down an entire flight of concrete stairs. The Court also agreed that the petitioner’s failure to submit key evidence, portions of the medical records for known treatment, led to a permissible inference that the records contained information detrimental to the petitioner’s claim.
The Respondent was able to succeed in this litigation due to a prompt and thorough investigation of the key facts of the case, including petitioner’s medical records that established a lack of acute injuries. The involvement of Respondent’s witness and critical testimony was also essential for this win. A key takeaway from this is how important it is to pursue a systematic investigation of any and all co-workers who might have key information regarding a suspicious claim. Detailed analysis of medical records is also indispensable to the defense of any workers’ compensation claim. Congratulations to Attorney Michael Bantz for this excellent outcome!