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Nee v. Illinois Workers' Comp. Comm'n

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District

February 27, 2015

THOMAS A. NEE, Appellant,
v.
ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION, et al., (City of Chicago, Appellee)

Page 962

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12-L-51321. Honorable Eileen O'Neil Burke, Judge, Presiding.

SYLLABUS

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission's denial of a city plumbing inspector's claim for the knee injury he suffered when he tripped on a curb while heading to his next inspection assignment was reversed and remanded to the Commission, since there was no evidence showing that claimant had some condition that caused him to fall, but, rather, the risk of traversing the curb was neutral, the risk was not distinctly associated with his employment as a plumbing inspector, and although all members of the public are confronted with the risk of such curbs, a traveling employee such as claimant is exposed to the risk while working and is presumed to have been exposed to a greater risk than the general public; therefore, the injury claimant suffered when he tripped was sustained in the course of his employment and arose out of his employment as a traveling plumbing inspector for the city.

For Appellant(s): Dennis M. Lynch, The Healy Law Firm, Chicago, IL.

For Appellee(s): Stephen R. Patton, Benna Ruth Solomon, Myriam Zreczny Kasper, Stephen G. Collins, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.

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

OPINION

HOFFMAN, JUSTICE.

Page 963

[¶1] The claimant, Thomas A. Nee, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2008)), seeking benefits for injuries he received while working for the City of Chicago (City). He now appeals from the circuit court order which confirmed the decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) finding that he failed to prove that he sustained an injury which arose out of and in the course of his employment with the City. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court, reverse the decision of the Commission, and remand the cause to the Commission for further proceedings.

[¶2] The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence adduced at the arbitration hearing.

[¶3] At all times relevant, the claimant was a plumbing inspector in the employ of the City. His duties required him to travel throughout the City by car to inspect the plumbing in both residential and commercial buildings. The claimant testified that he reported to work each day at the filtration plant and received the day's inspection assignments. He inspected approximately five to seven sites each day, driving from location to location. The plaintiff contends, and the City admits, that he was a traveling employee.

[¶4] The claimant testified that, on July 27, 2009, after finishing an inspection at 2007 North Sedgwick, he " tripped on a curb" and fell as he was walking back to his car to go to his next assignment. During the arbitration hearing, the claimant testified that he was not sure if the curb was level with the sidewalk, but he thought that it might have been higher. He was asked: " So you believe that the curb may have been higher than the sidewalk and that's where you tripped?" . He responded: " Yes, I do." However, on cross-examination, the following exchange took place:

" Q. On July 27, 2009, you stated that you don't really recollect the curb. Is that correct? Do you remember the street and the condition ...

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