- Bachelor of Arts – Political Science 1992, Miami University
- Juris Doctor 1995, Wake Forest University School of Law
- Admitted to Practice in Illinois and Federal Court 1995
- Admitted to Practice in Wisconsin 2006
- Member of the Chicago Bar Association
- Member of the Wisconsin State Bar Association
- Defense of Workers’ Compensation matters
- Chicago Magazine – Illinois Rising Stars* (2008, 2009, and 2010)
Significant Arbitration Decisions
1. John Hardison v. Federal Companies (02 WC 48359; 04 MR 1316)
Petitioner alleged a work injury as a result of his normal job duties as a mover, including loading and unloading household goods weighing between 50 and 120 pounds. Petitioner testified that he felt a sharp pain down his back into the groin while stacking boxes on the moving van. He testified that he continued working the rest of the day, despite leg weakness and groin pain, and he testified that he left a message on the respondent’s answering machine later that night since he was unable to report the accident in person, as he returned after normal business hours when no one was there. After cross-examination regarding the specifics of the accident, petitioner testified on re-direct that he initially felt a sharp pain in his lower back while stacking boxes in the van and then later felt similar pain inside the customer’s home after leaning over a table to complete paperwork. Petitioner eventually underwent surgery and was released to return to work, although he could no longer work as a mover, which had been his job since 1985. Following a successful cross-examination impeaching the petitioner’s credibility regarding the circumstances surrounding the alleged accident, the arbitrator denied compensation and the Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed on review by a 2 to 1 vote. Petitioner appealed to the Circuit Court of Lake County, where the denial of compensation was again affirmed. Finally, petitioner appealed to the Second Judicial District of the Appellate Court of Illinois, where the court affirmed the Circuit Court decision in a 4 to 1 vote. The court concluded that the petitioner’s failure to testify in a manner consistent with the medical records could have reasonably raised concerns regarding the credibility of his claim. The court further noted that the Commission did not conclude that the acts of bending over or completing paperwork were non-compensable. Instead, the court noted that the Commission merely determined that the petitioner’s story was inconsistent and, thus, not credible. The dissenting opinion indicated that it is not speculation that petitioner’s injury began while loading the truck and culminated while leaning over a table to deal with work related paperwork. Regardless, we were able to preserve the “zero” award initially issued by the arbitrator and subsequently affirmed at the Commission level, Circuit Court level and finally Appellate Court level.
2. Amy Brys v. Jewel Food Stores (98 WC 40199)
The petitioner alleged injury as a result of lifting heavy boxes and pulling crates at work, and first underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy, followed by a laminectomy at L5-S1, with a bone graft and fusion, approximately 2 years following the first surgery. The petitioner testified that she reported the accident to her supervisor, and then completed accident/off work reports claiming a work related accident. At trial, petitioner claimed entitlement to 74-1/7 weeks of TTD benefits, $80,734.60 in medical benefits, and Section 8(d)1 wage differential benefits as a result of permanent work restrictions following the two surgical procedures. Following a successful cross-examination impeaching the petitioner’s credibility regarding the circumstances surrounding the alleged accident, the Industrial Commission found petitioner failed to establish her burden of proof. Although the respondent’s exposure for medical and TTD benefits alone exceeded $150,000.00, the Industrial Commission issued a “zero” award.
3. James Reichard v. Yellow Freight (98 WC 65437)
The petitioner was involved in a motor vehicle accident when his truck was blown off the road and skidded into a steep incline as a result of windy, icy conditions. The petitioner testified that he was thrown against the left side of the cab during the accident, striking his left shoulder and the left side of his face. Approximately three to four hours after the accident, petitioner stated that he began complaining of chest pain radiating to the left arm, as well as shortness of breath. Three days after the accident, petitioner underwent a triple coronary bypass surgery, which his surgeon causally related to the motor vehicle accident. The respondent’s IME physician, a board certified cardiologist, opined that petitioner’s motor vehicle accident did not cause or contribute to his coronary artery dissection, and concluded that petitioner’s abnormalities were simply a progression of his underlying coronary artery disease. The Industrial Commission found petitioner’s rotator cuff tear, impingement, and adhesive capsulitis related to the motor vehicle accident, but found petitioner’s heart condition unrelated. The Industrial Commission was persuaded by the fact that there was no evidence of any other cardiac or vascular abnormalities (i.e., no evidence of an aortic dissection, no enzyme release suggestive of myocardial contusion), and determined that petitioner’s heart condition was simply a progression of his underlying disease state and unrelated to the motor vehicle accident. Additionally, the Industrial Commission noted the causative link between smoking and coronary heart disease, and made specific mention of the fact that the petitioner admitted on cross-examination that he had been smoking one pack of cigarettes per day since the age of 7. In conclusion, the Industrial Commission found petitioner’s heart condition had progressed to a point where any stress could have caused pain (including 90% blockage, making him fragile and susceptible to any normal stress) and the resulting need for bypass surgery. The Industrial Commission determined petitioner’s pre-existing heart condition and his longstanding smoking habit were the most likely causative factors of his heart problems, rather than the motor vehicle accident. The arbitrator awarded 35% loss of use of the right arm shoulder as a result of the torn rotator cuff, impingement, and secondary adhesive capsulitis, and limited the respondent’s liability for medical bills to treatment petitioner received to his right shoulder.
4. Ken Bons v. Yellow Transportation (00 WC 19938)
Petitioner was involved in a compensable work-related accident on February 21, 2000, and as a result, he was released to return to work with permanent restrictions. It is undisputed that the permanent work restrictions prevent him from returning to his pre-accident job as a truck driver for the respondent. A vocational rehabilitation program was initiated by the respondent to assist petitioner in his return to work. Thereafter, respondent filed a motion for leave to suspend benefits claiming petitioner failed to put forth a good faith effort in the respondent’s vocational rehabilitation program. The motion requested the suspension of both the vocational rehabilitation program and petitioner’s maintenance benefits as a result of his non-compliance. At trial, petitioner and his vocational expert were both successfully impeached on cross-examination on a number of issues. The arbitrator found petitioner lacking credibility and granted respondent’s motion to terminate benefits. Prior to arbitration, the respondent paid out $130,612.59 in indemnity benefits and $84,660.00 in medical benefits. Additionally, based upon petitioner’s permanent work restrictions, respondent likely faced Section 8(d)1 wage differential exposure in the area of $20,000.00 per year, following liability for further vocational rehabilitation and maintenance benefits. The future cash value of petitioner’s Section 8(d)1 wage differential was approximately $700,000.00. However, following the favorable trial award terminating respondent’s liability for vocational rehabilitation and maintenance benefits, the parties reached an agreement to settle all issues with a release and resignation agreement.
5. Daniel Hicks v. Parsons Engineering (96 WC 43332)
The petitioner sought vocational rehabilitation and TTD/maintenance benefits, claiming that the respondent failed to provide an appropriate vocational rehabilitation program and improperly terminated petitioner’s TTD/maintenance benefits. The Industrial Commission found that the respondent complied with Section 8(a) by locating an employment position within the petitioner’s permanent work restrictions as outlined in a functional capacity evaluation, and further determined that the petitioner failed to make a good faith effort in the job placement program by refusing to attempt the job located by the respondent. The Industrial Commission determined that the petitioner’s lack of good faith in cooperating with the respondent’s vocational rehabilitation efforts justified the respondent’s termination of both the vocational rehabilitation program and TTD/maintenance benefits.
6. Gloria Gemenez v. Jewel Food Stores (00 WC 43356)
Petitioner was involved in a compensable work-related accident on March 18, 2000 when a box fell on top of her. Thereafter, petitioner sought medical treatment with several different physicians who took her off work and eventually recommended continued pain management. She incurred $66,883.80 in medical expenses as a result of her lumbar radiculopathy and multiple levels of disc bulging, and was off work for more than one year. Respondent’s IME physician diagnosed petitioner with a work-related lumbosacral strain with mild residual findings and released her to return to full duty work. After we were able to successfully impeach petitioner’s credibility at trial, the arbitrator awarded 11-2/7 weeks of TTD benefits rather than the 53-4/7 weeks petitioner was seeking, $3,516.00 in medical expenses instead of the $66,883.80 sought by petitioner, and 7.5% loss of the man as a whole. The arbitrator essentially adopted the respondent’s argument in totality by cutting off liability for medical and TTD beyond June 18, 2000, corresponding to the date that respondent’s IME physician indicated petitioner achieved maximum medical improvement. In so doing, respondent avoided liability for medical totaling $63,367.80 as well as 42-27 weeks of TTD benefits.
7. Augustina Zamudio v. Marriott (90 WC 53393)
The petitioner filed a petition to reinstate following an order for dismissal for want of prosecution of her case, claiming she never received notice of the case dismissal. Additionally, the petitioner alleged that even if notice was received, she failed to understand or read English. The arbitrator denied the reinstatement, and the Industrial Commission affirmed on review. The Industrial Commission’s decision was based upon the cross-examination of the petitioner, which established that she was stable in her residency and had resources available to her to translate or interpret any information that she received that she did not understand regarding her case.
8. Mary Handy v. John H. Harland Co. (99 WC 15767)
Petitioner filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim alleging a repetitive trauma injury to her left foot. Although petitioner’s treating physician repeatedly stated that she should not return to her employment position with the respondent, and specifically provided information to assist in her vocational rehabilitation efforts, the respondent maintained this claim on a denial posture pursuant to a causation dispute. The arbitrator granted the respondent’s motion to dismiss prior to trial, relying upon the respondent’s argument that petitioner could not establish her threshold burden of proof. Petitioner’s attorney filed a motion to vacate the dismissal, but the Industrial Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s dismissal order.