Illinois Appellate Court Approves Relation-Back Doctrine in Workers’ Compensation Claim; Modern Drop Forge v. Workers’ Compensation Commission

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed a decision by a Cook County circuit court judge that allowed an injured worker to file a claim for a different injury to her right leg from the same conduct. The two workers’ compensation claims were consolidated prior to the arbitration in the Industrial Commission of Illinois. The petitioner/worker, Bessie Carnes, who was injured while in the scope of her employment, underwent surgery and physical therapy in April 1998 and was off work until May of that year.

Her employer, Modern Drop Forge, paid for her surgery and physical therapy through its group health plan covering nonoccupational disabilities.

In October 1999, Carnes first filed an application for adjustment of claim in the Illinois Industrial Commission alleging that the injury dating from September 1998, which she amended in August 2002, to have the current accident date of May 1996. At arbitration, Carnes’s employer moved to dismiss the claim as being untimely filed arguing that she had 3 years in which to file a claim from the date of injury.

On July 2009, the arbitrator issued a decision finding the claim was timely filed. The arbitrator noted that the claim was filed within 2 years after the date of the last payment of benefits under a group nonoccupational disability plan and found that Carnes suffered accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment and thus rewarded her benefits.

On appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Commission, it affirmed and adopted the arbitrator’s decision. On appeal to the Circuit Court of Cook County in January 2011, the trial judge also affirmed the Commission’s finding. The employer, Modern Drop Forge, appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court.

Modern argued that the claim that Carnes brought was untimely. The appellate court, citing Sections 6(v) and 8(j) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, stated that the statute of limitations for filing a claim and tolling provision for periods during which a policy such as Modern’s pays benefits was met. The employer argued that the petitioner Carnes offered no evidence or testimony that she received disability benefits of any kind to support her claim of timeliness.

The appellate court examined the record and found that Carnes testified to this herself and that Modern had offered no evidence to refute that testimony, but instead stipulated that the benefits had been paid. Therefore, the appellate court found that the original petition had been timely filed.

The court then considered the other issue in the appeal, which was that the amended application was time-barred and prejudiced Modern because the application changed the injury date.

The appellate court rejected the argument because Illinois courts applied the doctrine of relation-back in the absence of any specified way to determine when a claim may be amended. Because the doctrine allowed the amended application, it related back as it concerned the same injury. The court noted that there was no evidence in the record suggesting that the petitioner Carnes had suffered two different injuries.

Modern Drop Forge v. Workers’ Compensation Commission, Case No. 2012 IL App. (1st) 110539 WC-U.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling workers’ compensation matters, work injuries, construction injuries, car accidents, truck accidents, bicycle accidents for individuals and families for more than 36 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Orland Park, Inverness, Calumet City, South Chicago, Winfield, Antioch, Long Grove, Kenilworth and Bridgeport (Chicago), Ill.

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