Repetitive Trauma Cubital Tunnel Claim Rejected by Arbitrator

I&F Attorney Dane Kurth recently secured a favorable arbitration decision for our client in its defense of a repetitive trauma cubital tunnel claim.  The petitioner was employed for almost 20 years as a 911 Operator for the respondent.  The petitioner claimed that he developed cubital tunnel syndrome in his left elbow as a result of his repetitive job duties which included answering 911 calls, taking calls on the business line, handling radio traffic, and performing data entry using multiple keyboards and mousing devices at his work station.

At issue was whether the petitioner’s work activities constituted a compensable accident under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and whether such activities caused him to develop cubital tunnel syndrome.  In attempting to establish a causal connection, the petitioner relied on the opinions of his treating physician who testified that the petitioner’s job duties played a contributing role in causing his diagnosed condition.  The IME doctor and, more importantly, the Arbitrator disagreed.

In finding for our client, the Arbitrator identified several deficiencies in the petitioner’s case.  First of all, the treating physician testified on cross examination that he had not reviewed any job descriptions or workspace photographs and he had a limited recollection of specific discussions with the petitioner about his actual job duties.  At trial, the petitioner confirmed that he never supplied his doctor with a written job description or photographs.  In addition, when cross examined at trial, the petitioner could not recall discussing his job duties with the treating physician.  Finally, the petitioner admitted that in the past he had been involved in computer gaming and had done a number of side jobs involving computer work outside of his regular employment.

While the Arbitrator commented that the treating physician had a limited understanding of the petitioner’s job, the Arbitrator found that the IME doctor’s written reports and deposition testimony demonstrated a more thorough review and clearer understanding of the petitioner’s job duties.  The Arbitrator noted that the IME doctor analyzed several job descriptions, examined work station photographs, and spoke with the petitioner about his job duties before rendering a causation opinion.  Ultimately, the IME doctor concluded that the petitioner’s job involved a variety of different activities, none of which were performed to such a degree that they would have caused him to develop cubital tunnel syndrome.

Based on the evidence presented at trial, the Arbitrator found that the IME doctor’s opinions were more persuasive and credible than the treating physician’s opinions and the Arbitrator denied all benefits.  As a result, our client avoided significant costs associated with payment of future medical expenses, temporary total disability benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits.

Congratulations to Dane for the excellent result.

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