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Moran v. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division

July 29, 2016

SCOTT MORAN, Appellant,
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (The Village of Homewood, Appellee).

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 2014-L-050679; the Hon. Robert Lopez Cepero, Judge, presiding.

          Thomas W. Duda, of Palatine, for appellant.

          Rusin Maciorowski & Friedman, Ltd., of Chicago (Daniel W. Arkin and Jeffrey N. Powell, of counsel), for appellee.

          Panel STEWART JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Hudson, and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The claimant, Scott Moran, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2010)) against his employer, the Village of Homewood, seeking workers' compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) allegedly caused by a March 30, 2010, work-related accident. After an arbitration hearing, the arbitrator found that the claimant did not sustain an accidental injury that arose out of and in the course of his employment.

         ¶ 2 The claimant sought review of the arbitrator's decision before the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). The Commission struck one sentence from the arbitrator's decision and otherwise affirmed and adopted her decision.

         ¶ 3 The claimant filed a timely petition for judicial review in the circuit court of Cook County. The circuit court confirmed the Commission's decision, and the claimant appealed.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing on January 7, and September 13, 2013.

         ¶ 6 The claimant testified that he started working as a firefighter in 1986. On February 22, 1991, he went to work for the employer's fire department as a firefighter/paramedic. In 2006, he was promoted to lieutenant/paramedic.

         ¶ 7 The claimant testified that just before 9 p.m. on March 30, 2010, a call came into the fire station, reporting a man trapped in a chair in a house fire. On the way to the fire, the dispatcher told him that the police were on the scene and that they were unable to rescue the man. The Hazel Crest fire department arrived on the scene minutes before the claimant arrived with his fire engine and crew. He testified that, under the Incident Command System, a single person is responsible for the overall operation of an incident. He was told by radio to take command of the incident. He went to the front door and saw the Hazel Crest firefighters enter the house. He determined the gauge of hose to use in extinguishing the fire. He instructed firefighter Christopher Kieta to take the hose in the front of the house. He listened to the radio for another chief to come on the radio so he could transfer command and go in with Kieta. As he was putting on his mask and getting ready to go in, Brian Carey came up to him and stated, "we got this Lieu. We got this." "Lieu" was a reference to lieutenant. Carey and Kieta went inside. The claimant testified that he looked around the house and that the fire in back was worse than he had originally thought, and he noticed that no one was on the roof ventilating. A Flossmoor fire department lieutenant arrived, and the claimant told him to vent the house. The claimant escalated the alarm to a "full still" so that additional mutual aid companies would respond to the scene.

         ¶ 8 The claimant testified that, as he walked back around to the front of the house, there was a flash. He saw Kieta and firefighter Karra Kopas come out of the building, and Kopas started screaming that Carey was still in the house. After what "seemed like hours, " the claimant saw firefighters drag Carey out. He was not wearing his mask or helmet. The claimant looked down and said "Oh, my god." The ambulance at the scene had been driven by Carey and, therefore, was not available to transport him to the hospital. The claimant escalated the alarm to a mayday and called to secure an ambulance from a mutual aid department. The claimant continued to supervise the scene and obtain medical care for Carey. As Carey was being transported to the ambulance, Chief Casper from Country Club Hills approached the claimant and relieved him of his command. After Carey had been transported to the hospital, Chief Robert Grabowski came up to the claimant and asked what happened. The claimant told him "Chief, it's real bad. [Carey's] hurt. It's bad. You got to go to the hospital." Chief Grabowski left for the hospital.

         ¶ 9 Chief Grabowski testified that he had worked for the employer's fire department as the chief for 3½ years. Prior to that, he had worked for the Village of Hazel Crest for 23 years. Chief Grabowski testified that shortly after he arrived at the fire on March 30, 2010, Chief Dunn of the Tinley Park fire department approached him and told him that there was probably a line-of-duty death. Chief Grabowski told the claimant to have the crew return to the station along with all the other initial responders. From his training, and as fire chief, he knew that after this type of accident it was important to get everyone into one area to begin the critical incident stress debriefing. A little less than two weeks after the incident, there was another debriefing at the village hall.

         ¶ 10 The claimant testified that he and the other first responders from the employer's fire department were transported by the police to the police training room where clergy and other support staff interacted with them. Carey died as a result of his injuries caused by the fire. A critical incident stress debriefing team was brought in to assist the first responders in coming to grips with the loss of a colleague. For approximately 10 days after the March 30, 2010, fire, the employer's fire department ceased performing fire suppression and emergency medical service operations, and all of its calls were referred to mutual aid companies.

         ¶ 11 Chief Grabowski testified that after the fire they implemented the emergency operation plan where surrounding fire departments provided coverage for a period of about one week. It had never been used before. He stated that because they are a small department and some of the firefighters were very close to Carey, he had concerns about the responders involved in the fire. He and Deputy Chief Clint Johnson spoke to psychologist Dr. Timothy McManus, and they decided not to take calls to make sure all the employees were okay.

         ¶ 12 Deputy Chief Johnson testified that he had worked full-time for the employer's fire department since 1979 and had been deputy chief since 2008. He testified that after the March 30, 2010, fire, it was the first time in his career that the fire department had all their calls taken by other fire departments.

         ¶ 13 Christopher Kieta testified that he worked as a firefighter/paramedic for the employer and that he was part of the crew that responded to the March 30, 2010, fire. He stated that the claimant ordered him to pull a 2½-inch line hose into the house through the front door. He entered the house and made his way toward the kitchen. When he started extinguishing the kitchen fire, a huge amount of steam conversion erupted, touching the exposed skin around his face and pushing him to the ground. As he tried to pull his hood up, he bumped into Carey. He asked Carey to take the hose while he fixed his hood. He backed up behind Carey and bumped into Kopas. He asked Kopas to back Carey up so he could adjust his helmet and hood. He fixed his hood and noticed that they were pulling on the line. He picked up the hose and started maneuvering it forward. When he was in the front room about three feet from the front door, he heard breaking glass, and there was a flashover.[1] He heard someone on the radio ordering everyone out of the house. The Hazel Crest firemen rushed out, and he got pushed out the door. The Hazel Crest firefighters grabbed Kopas and pulled her out. He informed the Hazel Crest crew that Carey was still in the building. He went to his engine to get ...

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