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Joe Higgins
Hennessy & Roach
  • Bachelor of Arts – Political Science 1983, University of Florida
  • Juris Doctor 1989, The John Marshall Law School
  • Admitted to Practice in Illinois and Federal Court 1989

Professional Affiliations:

  • Member of The Chicago Bar Association
  • Member of The Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Association

Practice Areas:

  • Defense of Workers’ Compensation and General Liability matters

Social Affiliations:

  • Vice President of the Brehon Society
  • Young Irish Fellowship of Chicago

Significant Arbitration Decisions

1. Duzoan Jackson v. Continental Air Transport (89 WC 41913)

It was undisputed that the petitioner had an accident in which she fell onto her knees and hit her head. The only dispute was whether petitioner suffered any permanent impairment from the injury. The arbitrator held that the petitioner failed to sustain her burden of proof that she had any permanent impairment from her fall. The arbitrator’s decision was based primarily on cross-examination of the petitioner as to her termination as respondent’s employee and her motives for filing a workers’ compensation claim. The decision was appealed by the petitioner and affirmed by the Industrial Commission (91 IIC 2313).

2. Brenda Thomas v. Disc Jockey and the Wax Works, Inc. (90 WC 7245, 90 WC 9994)

It was undisputed that the petitioner slipped and fell in a shopping mall parking lot while an employee of the respondent. The petitioner alleged that she had slipped on ice in an area of the parking lot that was designated for mall employees to park. The arbitrator found that there was no increased risk to the petitioner compared to all mall customers and held that the petitioner’s accident did not arise out of or in the course of her employment. The arbitrator’s decision was based on cross-examination testimony by the petitioner regarding where, when and how she fell. The Industrial Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s decision (92 IIC 1635).

3. Jody Dugger v. Carlinville Area Hospital (92 WC 19533)

The petitioner was diagnosed with hepatitis C and alleged that on September 1, 1997, she was exposed to the hepatitis C virus at work. She was diagnosed with hepatitis C in April of 1991. Petitioner testified that in the early 1980’s she had a needle stick from a needle that had been used by a patient infected with hepatitis B. She further indicated that she had worked with two patients on a regular basis that had been tested positive for hepatitis C. Medical testimony from both petitioner and respondent doctors indicated that up to 40% of hepatitis C cases are idiopathic or of an unknown source. The arbitrator found that the petitioner’s testimony was not credible and as a result ruled that she failed to prove she was exposed to a hepatitis C virus, at work. In affirming the arbitrator’s decision, the Commission held while the petitioner worked with two patients who were diagnosed with hepatitis C there was no indication of any work exposure during the relevant period of time. Therefore, the Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s decision. (94 IIC 0809).

4. Lorraine Burkhardt v. Brach & Brock Confections. (96 WC 17748)

The petitioner alleged that she sustained injury to her hands bilaterally as a result of repetitive trauma to the extent that she would be unable to return to her regular job. She was a wage differential with exposure in excess of $150,000.00. It was her testimony at trial that she had worked in excess of 20 years on an assembly line gathering and moving small chocolate candies from a conveyor belt. We obtained an onsite job video of the exact job and secured depositions of our independent medical evaluator who did not believe that there was a causal relationship and the treating doctor, who in fact did believe there was a causal relationship. The Arbitrator reviewed the videotape and found the opinion of the treating doctor to be inconsistent as to what the tape actually depicted and what the petitioner had advised the doctor what the actual job was. The Arbitrator found that the evaluating physician had an opportunity to review the videotape and was properly educated as to what the exact job was. As a result, the Arbitrator adopted the findings of the independent medical evaluator, who found that the petitioner’s present condition of ill-being was not causally related to the injury that was alleged. The decision was affirmed by the Illinois Industrial Commission.

5. James Ashburn v. Film Products Corp. (97 WC 9072)

The petitioner alleged an injury to his low back which occurred on January 24, 1997 and resulted in a herniated disc and subsequent surgery. The arbitrator found that the only evidence that the petitioner introduced with regard to an on the job injury on January 24, 1997 was his own testimony. However, according to the arbitrator, the petitioner’s testimony was impeached by (1) medical records that were devoid of any occupational involvement until over 4 months after the alleged occurrence and (2) testimony of a respondent witness. In addition, cross-examination of the petitioner proved other inconsistencies and the arbitrator eventually held that the petitioner was not a credible witness. Compensation was denied. This case was taken all the way through the Illinois Appellate Court, wherein a mandate was issued by the Appellate Court of the Third District of Illinois on July 11, 2001 affirming the decision at all levels.

6. Timothy Dupree v. Brach’s Confections, Inc. (99 WC 21643, 00 WC 07386)

The petitioner testified that he worked for the respondent for 33 years. He testified that a significant portion of his duties involved operating a forklift and that he was required to operate the forklift in a reverse fashion for approximately 90% of the time. He indicated that as a result, he would have to look behind him when the forklift was in reverse. The petitioner was claiming an accident date of March 26, 1999 and May 19, 1999. He eventually was diagnosed with a herniated disc at C5-6 and underwent a fusion surgery. The petitioner had two treating doctors indicating that his current condition of ill-being was a result of his work duties. However, in depositions, neither was willing to testify to this opinion within a reasonable degree of medical and surgical certainty, but rather indicated that the theory was “plausible.” Witnesses testified that the petitioner’s interpretation of what the job was to be was grossly exaggerated and videotape of the job seemed to corroborate the testimony of respondent’s witnesses. The Arbitrator found that in neither case did the petitioner sustain an accident arising out of his employment with the respondent and all benefits were denied. A review was taken and the decision was affirmed.

7. Kara Bismarck-Thurbursh (00 WC 4701)

The petitioner claimed that on October 1, 1999 the respondent was in the process of moving their offices. According to the petitioner, she moved a printer in order to unplug the machine to go to the other office and that shortly thereafter she noted her muscles were sore and achy in her shoulders, neck and upper back. It was acknowledged that she had three prior back surgeries, including fusion in the cervical area and that she had been taking pain medication. However, she testified that as a result of the accident on October 1, 1999, she was not able to return to work and in fact at trial was claiming to be permanently and totally disabled. Two witnesses were called to testify on behalf of the Respondent as it pertained to the actual occurrence and acts and events that the petitioner testified to. The petitioner’s testimony was impeached in a number of instances through medical documentation and testimony of respondent’s witnesses. As a result, the Arbitrator found that the petitioner did not sustain an accident that arose out of her employment with the respondent on October 1, 1999 and found against any lost time, medical and the permanent total that the petitioner was claiming as a result of the alleged injury of October 1, 1999. A review was taken by the petitioner. Due to the fact that there was a tremendous amount of exposure in excess of $200,000.00, the case was settled for a nominal amount and the Petition for Review was withdrawn.

8. Miquel Estrada v. Brach & Brock Confections (01 WC 00047)

The petitioner testified that on July 27, 2000, he was struck by a fork-lift wherein he sustained injury to his right shoulder. The accident and any and all reasonable and necessary treatment for the shoulder was accepted and paid for by the Respondent. Approximately eight months after the accident, the petitioner began to note numbness and tingling to his right upper extremity in the elbow and hand. He began to seek treatment for these symptoms, however, treatment was denied by Respondent as not being causally related to the injury of July 27, 2000. Petitioner was eventually diagnosed with cubital tunnel and carpal tunnel syndrome. At trial, the petitioner testified that at the time of the injury, he had no elbow or hand pain. On cross-examination, medical records established and the petitioner testified that he did not realize symptoms of numbness and tingling to the right upper extremity until June of 2001 nearly one year after the original injury. While the Arbitrator did find that the right shoulder was related to the injury of July 27, 2000, he found that the respondent has not liable to pay for any necessary medical services that would involve treatment for the right elbow and/or right wrist. The petitioner reviewed the Arbitrator’s decision and the Illinois Industrial Commission affirmed the Arbitrator’s findings.

Racketeering and Work Comp: Brown v. Cassens
FMLA Leave & Termination in Illinois
Fraud Provisions of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act