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Metropolitan Water Reclamation Greater Chicago v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

February 22, 2011



Workers' Compensation


Decision filed 02/22/11. The text of this decision may be changed or Commission Division correcte d prio r to the filing o f a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice McCullough and Justices Hudson and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion.


The claimant, Ruth Lindquist, appeals from an order of the circuit court finding that the injuries which she sustained on November 9, 2005, did not arise out of her employment with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the District), and reversing the decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) awarding her benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2004)). For the reasons which follow, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court and reinstate the decision of the Commission.

The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing conducted on October 31, 2006.

The 61-year-old claimant testified that she has been employed as an accounting clerk for the District for 13 years. Her primary job duties are clerical in nature and include using a computer and keyboard, ordering and moving supplies, and filing. She is also responsible for preparing deposit slips for checks received by the District and for depositing those checks in the account held by the District at Chase Bank on Michigan Avenue. The bank is about 11/2 blocks south and east of the District's office, which is located at 100 East Erie Street. The District does not direct what route she takes when making such deposits, and she typically walks east on Erie and then south on Michigan, which is the route she perceives to be the most direct. The claimant testified that she regularly travels to the bank to make deposits two to three times per week, depending on the volume of checks received.

At approximately 3 p.m. on November 9, 2005, the claimant left her office and began walking toward the bank to deposit checks in the District's account. She walked east on Erie toward Michigan Avenue, crossed Erie in the middle of the block, and then stumbled while walking up an inclined driveway that had a "dip" of about six inches. According to the claimant, she tripped or lost her footing on the "dip" in the driveway and fell forward. She tried to break her fall with her hands and fractured both of her wrists. The claimant acknowledged that she did not fall as a result of any debris or defect in the pavement, nor did she trip on the high curb.

The claimant stated that she was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where she underwent bilateral wrist x-rays that demonstrated she had sustained comminuted fractures of the distal radii with volar angulation of the fragments. The emergency room doctors applied long-arm casts that extended from her hands to just below her shoulders. The following day, she saw Dr. John McClellan, an orthopedic surgeon, who replaced the long-arm casts with shorter ones. Dr. McClellan also scheduled an external-fixation surgery for her left wrist, which was performed on November 14, 2005. He then performed the same procedure on her right wrist on December 2, 2005. She subsequently underwent physical therapy and was ultimately released to return to work on March 6, 2006. At the hearing, the claimant stated that she has pain and stiffness in both of her wrists, but continues to perform the same functions she had before the accident.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the arbitrator found that, although the claimant was injured while performing a task that was required by her work, the accident did not arise out of her employment because she had not established that her job duties exposed her to a risk greater than that faced by the general public. Accordingly, the arbitrator found that the claimant was not entitled to benefits under the Act.

The claimant sought review of the arbitrator's decision before the Commission. With one commissioner dissenting, the Commission found that the claimant's accidental fall on November 9, 2005, arose out of her employment. In support of this conclusion, the Commission relied on the fact that the claimant was injured while performing a required task in the middle of a work day. In addition, the Commission stated that, though it was unnecessary to reach the issue of whether the claimant was exposed to an "increased risk," her claim was compensable under this alternative analysis where she had proven that she was regularly required to traverse the streets in order to make ...

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