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Mlynarczyk v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 30, 2013

THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, et al., (Sophie Obrochta d/b/a Janitorial By Sophie, Appellee).

Rehearing denied August 6, 2013

Held [*]

The appellate court reversed the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s decision that claimant did not suffer a compensable injury when she fell and broke her wrist while walking to a van provided to her and her husband by their employer to travel to cleaning assignments, notwithstanding the fact that they had parked the van at their residence during a break, since claimant was a “traveling employee, ” her walk to the van initiated her journey to a work assignment, and claimant sufficiently established that her fall occurred on a “public sidewalk” where she was exposed to the “hazards of the street.”

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County, No. 11-MR-766; the Hon. Barbara Petrungaro, Judge, presiding.

Frank I. Gaughan, of Steven B. Salk & Associates, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellant.

Michael S. Powalisz, of Roddy, Leahy, Guill & Zima, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee.

Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Harris, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion



¶1 Claimant, Stanislawa Mlynarczyk, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Will County confirming a decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). The Commission determined that claimant failed to prove that she sustained an accident arising out of and in the course of her employment with respondent, Sophie Obrochta, d/b/a Janitorial by Sophie. On appeal, claimant argues that she was a "traveling employee" and therefore was entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2006)). We agree. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court, reverse the decision of the Commission, and remand this cause for further proceedings.


¶3 The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing held over the course of several dates beginning on September 29, 2009. Respondent operates a cleaning service run by Walter Obrochta and his wife, Sophie. Claimant testified through a Polish interpreter that she became employed by respondent in September 2007. Claimant's duties involved cleaning churches, homes, and offices. Claimant testified that she was paid by the job. Claimant's husband, Edward Mlynarczyk, also worked for respondent. As part of his employment, Edward occasionally drove respondent's employees to and from jobsites. Edward used a minivan provided by Walter and Sophie to transport the employees. Neither respondent's name, logo, nor telephone number appears on the minivan.

¶4 At the time claimant and Edward were hired by respondent, they did not own an automobile. Accordingly, Edward also used the minivan to drive himself and claimant to work, to visit family, to shop, and to do other personal errands. Edward testified that he paid for the gasoline when he used the minivan for personal trips. At all other times, however, the Obrochtas paid or reimbursed him for fuel. The Obrochtas also paid the other costs associated with the minivan, including insurance and licensing fees.

¶5 On December 5, 2007, claimant, then 60 years old, left her home at 6:30 a.m. and was driven by Edward in the minivan to clean a church in Downers Grove, Illinois. After cleaning the church, Edward drove claimant in the minivan to clean two homes. Claimant and Edward finished cleaning the second home at about 2:30 p.m. Walter testified that claimant and Edward usually had a full day of jobs from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. On December 5, 2007, however, there were some cancellations due to the holiday season. Walter informed claimant and Edward that there were no other assignments for them, but that if they were interested in assisting the evening crew on another job, they should return to the church at around 4:30 p.m. Claimant and Edward agreed to return that evening. In the meantime, Edward and claimant traveled home in the minivan to eat lunch.

ΒΆ6 Typically, claimant and Edward took a 15-minute break for lunch. On the date in question, however, Edward and claimant remained home for about 90 minutes. Claimant was not paid for the time between the morning and evening jobs. Shortly after 4 p.m., Edward returned to the minivan to warm it up. The minivan was parked in the driveway of the house where claimant and Edward resided. At approximately 4:10 p.m., claimant left the house to return to work. Claimant testified that the ground was covered with snow, although she was not sure whether there was any ice beneath the snow. As claimant walked around the rear of the minivan, she slipped and fell. Claimant testified that the accident occurred adjacent to the driveway on a "public sidewalk" leading from the house to the driveway. Edward testified that although he did not see claimant fall, he found her lying behind the van, which was parked in the driveway. Claimant testified that she immediately felt "tremendous pain" in her left hand. She was unable to get up, so she called Edward for assistance. According to ...

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