Worker not entitled to new benefits, injury linked to ongoing medical condition, appeals court rules

An employee has failed to persuade an appeals court that his workers’ compensation claim was linked to a new injury that happened in the course of his employment.

The Fifth District Appellate Court, in an order filed Nov. 6, affirmed a decision by a lower court that confirmed a ruling by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission in a case taken by Kerry Hooten, who was employed by Belleville-headquartered Empire Comfort Systems.

Hooten, employed by the company for approximately 25 years, argued that he was entitled to benefits as he suffered neck and shoulder pain from October 2014, as a direct result of the operation of one of the company’s machines.

But the commission and St. Clair County Circuit Court took into account his previous medical history and workers’ compensation claims as both came to the conclusion that his most recent problems were caused by an accident at work.

For the appeals court, Justice Thomas Hoffman, of the First District Appellate Court, delivered the judgment with four other justices from various districts concurring. The order cannot be cited as precedent as it is filed under Supreme Court Rule 23.

The judgment details the past medical history of the appellant that began in December 2009, and which ultimately led to surgery to his cervical spine. He suffered a further injury to his left shoulder, which also was operated on in 2012.

Following the second procedure, Hooten returned without restrictions and mostly pain-free, according to his physicians, He entered into a settlement agreement with his employer where he gave up any further treatment at Empire’s expense “for the results of this injury” and any additional benefits if his condition deteriorated.

At issue was whether a claim that he was injured after October 2014, should be allowed given the medical history and the agreement.

Justice Hoffman concluded, “We note that the Commission did not err when it determined that the claimant waived his right to seek benefits for his current condition of ill-being.”

He added, “The claimant’s current condition of ill-being is not a new injury causally related to his October 1, 2014 work accident, but is rather, a worsening of his cervical spine from a previous work injury.

“Consequently, the claimant is barred from seeking benefits for his current condition.”

This article was first published by Madison Record.

Leave a Reply