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Village of Villa Park v. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

December 31, 2013

THE VILLAGE OF VILLA PARK, Appellant,
v.
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (John Simons, Appellee).

Rehearing denied February 6, 2014

Held[*]

The decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission awarding benefits to claimant for the back injury he suffered when he fell down stairs after his knee buckled was upheld where the evidence established that he worked as a community service officer at a police station, he was forced to use the stairs at the station for his personal comfort and to complete his work, and even though he had injured his knee in a prior fall and had been seen walking with a limp, the conclusion that his employment placed him at a greater risk of falling was supported by the evidence and thereby satisfied the exception to the general rule of noncompensability for injuries resulting from a personal risk and established that he was exposed to a greater risk of injury than the general public and that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County, No. Review 10-MR-000027; the Hon. Kenneth L. Popejoy, Judge, presiding

Daniel W. Arkin and Jeffrey N. Powell, both of Rusin, Maciorowski & Appeal Friedman, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellant.

Francis J. Discipio, of Law Offices of Francis J. Discipio, Ltd., of Oak Brook, for appellee.

Panel JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, withopinion.Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hudson, Harris, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HOFFMAN JUSTICE

¶ 1 The Village of Villa Park (Village) appeals from an order of the circuit court confirming a decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) that awarded the claimant, John Simons, benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2006)), after finding that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

¶ 2 The following facts are taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing conducted on September 17, 2008, and October 8, 2008. The claimant testified that he was employed by the Village as a community service officer. His duties included handling ordinance complaints, theft reports, various noncriminal in-progress calls, accident reports, parking enforcement, police officer backup, and other duties.

¶ 3 On April 5, 2007, the claimant was at work and on duty in the police station to which he was assigned. Around 6 or 7 p.m., he was upstairs in the watch commander's office for a briefing, after which the claimant and another officer began walking toward the back side of the building. The claimant stated that he turned and started walking down the rear stairwell to the locker room on the lower level. When he reached the third step, his right knee "gave out, " causing him to fall down about seven stairs to the landing below, sustaining injuries to his right knee and lower back.

¶ 4 The claimant testified that the back stairwell consisted of about 10 steps, a landing, and then another 10 steps to the lower level. The lower level contained the locker rooms, the briefing room, the lunch area, and the shooting range. The locker rooms were for the use of the police officers and were not open to the general public. The claimant described the lower level as a secured area and stated that the building entrance was accessible only with a pass key.

¶ 5 On a typical work day, the claimant would enter the building through the back door and descend the stairs to the locker room in order to change from his civilian clothes to his uniform. He would walk back up the stairs to the mailbox area to check for any pertinent information, then return downstairs to the lower level for his briefing meeting. The claimant testified that, before his shift even began, he would have traversed the back stairs at least two to four times. At the end of the day, the claimant would again descend the stairs to the locker room to change into his civilian clothes. According to the claimant, during most days, he would also traverse the stairs to go to the lunch room for his breaks or lunch to get a soda, or to get rain gear or other equipment he needed for his duties.

ΒΆ 6 The claimant described an earlier accident which injured his right knee. On January 13, 2007, he was at his vacation home in Wisconsin when he slipped on a patch of ice. Later that day, he fell off of a pile of wood and twisted the same knee. After one or two days, his knee still did not feel normal. According to the claimant, he then informed his supervisors about his injury and left to go to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was treated by his personal physician, Dr. Karim Yunez. An MRI was subsequently ordered which revealed a small joint effusion with complex tears to the anterior horn, posterior horn and body of the lateral meniscus. Dr. Yunez referred the claimant to Dr. William Hadesman, an orthopedic surgeon. On March 6, 2007, based upon the results of the MRI, Dr. Hadesman recommended that the claimant undergo knee surgery. The claimant agreed, ...


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