Assessing Compensability of Injuries from Common Bodily Movements
October 01, 2019
Injuries resulting from common bodily movements that do not arise from an employment-related risk are not compensable. In McAllister v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, claimant, a sous chef, injured his knee after standing up from a kneeling position while voluntarily looking for a misplaced pan of food. The Commission found that claimant’s injury did not arise out of his employment since the risk of injury was not peculiar to claimant’s employment and was not a neutral risk increased by the employment.
The Appellate Court affirmed the denial of compensation and noted the three types of risks. Employment risks are distinctly associated with employment. Personal risks are unique to the employee. Neutral risks have no particular employment characteristics. If claimant’s injuries resulted from an employment-related risk, the Court stated it was unnecessary to perform a neutral-risk analysis. Here, the Court held that claimant did not establish an employment-related risk as rising from a kneeling position after volunteering to help look for a misplaced pan of food did not rise to the above qualities to be considered employment-related. The Court also agreed it was not compensable under a neutral risk analysis. Next, the Court addressed the concerns of the special concurrence—that a neutral-risk analysis need be performed to assess the compensability of common bodily movements or employment activities set forth in Adcock v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n. The majority asserted that if claims were initially examined to determine whether the employee was engaging in common bodily movements at the time of injury, virtually all work injuries could be categorized as neutral risks, creating an additional burden for the employee.
COMMENT: Findings of compensability for injuries resulting from common bodily movements such as walking, kneeling, or standing without performing a neutral risk analysis will become arbitrary and no longer objective. The focus will become whether the task was incidental or necessary to fulfill the employee’s job duties, which could become quite an expansive inquiry. The Concurrence’s assertion that a neutral risk analysis should be applied to determine compensability is an objective standard that should be adopted to avoid arbitrary decision making. The Supreme court has been asked to grant an appeal.