Varied work duties fail to short circuit electrician's repetitive trauma claim
City of Springfield v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, No. 4-08-0170WC (Ill. App. Ct. 02/11/09).
Ruling: The Illinois Appellate Court upheld an award to an electrician who suffered a repetitive trauma injury to his upper extremities during work.
What it means: In Illinois, the fact that the claimant's work duties are varied, as opposed to a single task performed in a repetitive fashion, will not bar a claim for repetitive trauma to the upper extremities, where evidence indicates that the claimant's work required frequent and repetitive hand usage.
The claimant sustained bilateral carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, and pronator syndromes due to his repetitive, hand intensive work as an electrician. He filed an application for adjustment of the claim, seeking past and future medical benefits. The Illinois Appellate Court found sufficient evidence to support the finding that the claimant's injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment.
The claimant testified that his work required him to operate a variety of tools, including wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, wire strippers, drills and saws. During an eight-hour workday, at least five hours were spent using vibratory tools. Although he is right-handed, the claimant testified he used both hands throughout the course of his workday. His doctors opined his conditions were related to repetitive work.
The employer argued that a finding of repetitive trauma was not warranted because the claimant's work was varied, as opposed to a single task performed in a repetitive fashion on a daily basis. The court disagreed. Although the claimant did not perform the same task over and over again, his work was repetitive enough to support the finding that he suffered a repetitive trauma arising out of and in the course of employment. Furthermore, the testimony of the treating doctor -- that the claimant's work involved frequent and repetitive hand usage, which aggravated the symptoms of the upper extremity conditions -- also supported the finding that the claimant's work was repetitive in nature.
The court refused to reverse an award for proposed medical treatment involving surgical releases. The treating doctor testified that the prospective surgical releases were reasonable and necessary to alleviate the claimant's symptoms. The doctor testified that he sought early approval because approval often takes a long time. The treating doctor's testimony was credible. Based on this evidence, the court determined that the findings were reasonable and necessary and not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
March 26, 2009
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