In a case that once again reminds us of the importance of a thorough medical investigation, a favorable decision was received by Associate Attorney Lauren L. Waninski following Respondent’s appeal of an Arbitrator’s decision in petitioner’s favor.
After an Arbitrator found a medical causal connection between the Petitioner’s bilateral thumb injuries and his work as a janitor, the Respondent appealed, arguing that the prior medical records provided sufficient evidence of a pre-existing condition and that this condition was not related to the petitioner’s job duties.
After analyzing the Respondent’s Brief and hearing Oral Arguments by the parties, the Commission reversed the Arbitrator’s award and found that the Petitioner’s bilateral thumb condition is attributable solely to the degenerative process of the preexisting condition for which he treated continuously for six years prior to the alleged date of accident. In support of this argument, the Respondent presented evidence of the Petitioner’s preexisting medical treatment including two prior surgical recommendations for the bilateral thumb condition as well as several x-rays and injections performed during the six years prior to the alleged date of accident.
The Commission found no evidence directly linking the Petitioner’s bilateral thumb arthritis and his need for the thumb surgery to an alleged work-related repetitive trauma injury. As such, the Commission vacated the Arbitrator’s award of benefits under the Act with respect to the bilateral thumbs. Should the Decision stand the test of any future appeal, this will amount to a savings to the Respondent in medical expenses, temporary total disability benefits and permanent partial disability benefits in excess of six figures.
The takeaway for employers is, of course, to always investigate the Petitioner’s medical treatment and utilize subpoenas to obtain those medical records as there may be preexisting pathology that may impact a finding of medical causation.
Congratulations to Attorney Lauren Waninski for the excellent result and summary. Lauren represents Illinois employers from the firm’s Chicago office.