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Everyday Bodily Movements Can Cause Work Related Injuries

Everyday Bodily Movements Can Cause Work Related Injuries

McAllister v IWCC

In September of 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision in McAllister v IWCC (2020 IL 124848; 2020 Ill. LEXIS 561), which settled a lengthy dispute between employers and employees about what “everyday activities” are considered work-related injuries. 

Have you ever had an employer say that it is not a work-related injury because you were just standing up or reaching or walking? Unfortunately, when an employer or insurance company says something like that, often employees believe them. Yet it is not necessarily true, and most likely is wrong!

In McAllister v IWCC, the claimant was a chef who was in a walk-in cooler looking for supplies that may have been knocked under the bottom shelf. He knelt on the floor with both knees and looked under the shelf. He then went to stand up with nothing in his hands and felt a pop in his right knee preventing him from straightening it. The employer argued that standing from a kneeling position with nothing work-related in his hands was not a compensable injury that arose out of and in the course of employment. The employer argued that standing from a kneeling position was an activity that people do in everyday life involving common bodily movements. There was nothing about it that was unique to his work duties. 

The Commission agreed, finding that the act of standing from a kneeling position was a “neutral risk which had no particular employment or personal characteristics.” Id. at 4. Therefore, the Commission denied compensation. The Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the Commission’s decision but disagreed on the legal rationale for the finding. The rationale used by the majority was that if a common bodily movement caused the injury, then additional evidence was necessary to prove the movement was one that was required in the job to a greater extent than in everyday life by the general public, and the claimant failed to prove that in this case.

In a rare move, the Illinois Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter.

The Illinois Supreme Court Results

After considering the facts and law, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the decision and found that the knee injury was employment-related because it was caused by a movement required to carry out or incidental to a job duty. Yes, standing from a kneeling position is an everyday bodily movement. However, the Supreme Court held that the application of the “neutral risk” doctrine was incorrect. Instead, the Court found that standing from a kneeling position was an action, that although also done in everyday life, was required to perform the job duties of arranging supplies in the walk-in cooler. The Court held that because the action was necessary to carry out the job duties assigned, it was not a neutral or personal risk; it was an employment-related risk.  There is no requirement to show further that the action was done to a greater extent than the general public.

Before this decision, employers argued that if an injury was caused by a normal bodily movement (standing, walking, reaching, etc.), first, the employee had to prove that it was required to perform their job. Second, that they did it quantitatively or qualitatively, which was different from the general public. 

For example, they would have to prove they performed the movement more times than an average person would by arguing they reached out X times per minute or something similar. Or, they would have to argue that they did the action in a different way than an average person would by claiming they stood from a kneeling position with some object in their hands like a box. Only then, according to employers, would the everyday bodily movement be considered a work-related injury. But they are wrong!

We’ll Fight For You

Now, an injured employee simply needs to prove that they had an injury caused by a common bodily movement that they are required to perform or is incidental to performing their job duties. If, for example, they can prove they are required to stand from a kneeling position as part of their job duties, then a knee injury from that action is a compensable work-related injury.

So, if your employer has told you that your injury is not work-related because you were just [standing, walking, reaching, turning, etc.], call Black & Jones today at 815.967.9000. You may be entitled to compensation for the injury!