Partner Kevin Deuschle previously obtained wins at Arbitration and before the Commission, awarding no benefits to the petitioner, in a case involving an allegedly work-related torn meniscus and eventual total knee replacement.
The Petitioner had worked as a truck driver for the Respondent and testified that he stepped out and of his truck and down, feeling numbness and pain in his right leg upon putting his right foot on the ground. The next day, while walking across a parking lot on the Respondent’s premises, he collapsed and was brought to the ER via ambulance. The Petitioner, who was noted to be 6’2” and weighing 375 lbs, was diagnosed with a meniscus tear and underwent a meniscectomy followed by a total knee replacement.
The Arbitrator awarded no benefits, finding that the petitioner failed to prove that he suffered an accidental injury that arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Arbitrator specifically found the Petitioner not to be a credible witness due to a combination of reasons, including a conflict between the Petitioner’s testimony and the history that he gave to medical providers, the fact that the Petitioner did not give any medical provider a history of injuring himself while stepping out of the truck until almost two weeks after the accident, and also because the Petitioner did not identify his accident as being the act of stepping out of the truck when he gave a recorded statement to the claims handler.
The Arbitrator further found that, even if the Petitioner’s description of the circumstances was accepted, that it would not constitute an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of his employment, due to the fact that the petitioner failed to describe a specific event or accident. The Arbitrator noted that there was no slip, fall, or twisting of the knee when he stepped out of the truck. Lastly, the Arbitrator found that there was no evidence that the Petitioner was subjected to a risk of injury greater than that which the general public is subjected, citing Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Indus. Comm’n, 129 Ill. 2d 52, 56, 541 N.E.2d 665, 666 (1989).
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed and adopted the Arbitrator’s Decision in its entirety, including the Arbitrator’s specific finding that the Petitioner was not a credible witness.
The case was then appealed to the Madison Circuit Court, where it was argued by attorney Michael Bantz. The Circuit Court found that the decisions of the Arbitrator and Commission were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; however, the Circuit Court focused on the Petitioner’s failure to properly report the accident and the lack of medical evidence that established a connection between the alleged trauma and his diagnosis, rather than on the credibility of the Petitioner. The Court specifically found that the Petitioner’s condition was idiopathic and that he was not exposed to any risk of harm when his injury occurred. The Petitioner then brought a motion to reconsider before a new Judge at the Circuit Court, and Michael Bantz again obtained a favorable ruling with further arguments before the Court.
In this instance we were able to prevail by bringing together a variety of arguments on separate issues. It is essential to raise all possible defenses at the time of trial, including identifying inconsistent statements that undermine the credibility of witnesses, providing arguments that an incident did not legally arise out of a claimant’s employment, and also clearly detailing the weaknesses in any assertion of a medical causal connection between an accident and a diagnosis.
Congratulations to Partner Kevin Deuschle and Attorney Michael Bantz for their success on this case!