- The John Marshall Law School, Juris Doctor, 2008
- University of St. Thomas, Bachelor of Arts in Financial Management
- Hennessy & Roach P.C., Partner, Present
- Chicago Bar Association
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Defense of Workers’ Compensation Claims in Illinois
Significant Arbitration / Commission Decisions:
- Kornblum v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (113521WC-U, 2012 WL 6963532 (Ill. App. 1st Dist.)
The Petitioner was a pilot for Southwest Airlines, who sustained an accident at approximately 3:00 a.m. on September 27, 2009 after he stepped into a gap located between the floorboards and the handrail of a boardwalk at the hotel in which he was staying during a layover.
At arbitration, Petitioner testified that he ate dinner, had four to five beers and one or two shots of alcohol during the time he spent at the Crabby Bill’s Restaurant which was attached to the hotel in which he was staying. Petitioner testified that he was at this hotel bar from approximately 8:30 p.m. on the evening of the 26th until approximately 3:00 a.m. on the morning of September 27th before sustaining the accident. Respondent introduced evidence, including a bar receipt signed by Petitioner, which suggested the Petitioner’s alcohol level was much higher than he testified to at trial.
In this traveling employee case, the arbitrator wrote a decision in favor of the Petitioner, awarding Petitioner all related medical treatment, TTD benefits, and a PPD award. The arbitrator concluded the Petitioner’s conduct at the time of the accident was “foreseeable” by the Respondent. On appeal, the Respondent successfully argued that the burden of proof applied by the arbitrator was incorrect, and that the Petitioner’s conduct at the time of accident was neither reasonable nor foreseeable, and received a unanimous decision in its favor.
Petitioner appealed this decision through the Circuit Court of Cook County and the Illinois Appellate Court. Both courts found in favor of Respondent, citing that the Commission’s decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Petitioner received no benefits as a result of the alleged work accident.
- Rochelle Alexander v. HMS Host (08 WC 53490)
The Petitioner alleged a repetitive trauma claim as a result of her work as a cook for Respondent, with a manifestation date of December 8, 2008. She was terminated on October 15, 2008 after having missed several days of work without appropriate notice to her employer. Her job responsibilities included various cooking and cleaning tasks. She testified at trial that that her cooking responsibilities required her to reach and lean for various foods, to work on a counter top slightly below belt level, and to lift baskets of fries and salad plates. She testified that her cleaning responsibilities required her to sweep and mop the floor, clean the walls and sides of coolers, and to get down on her hands and knees and clean underneath the refrigerator. She testified that she was required to perform these tasks on a daily basis. The Petitioner worked in this capacity for approximately 1.5 years.
Petitioner alleged left carpal tunnel syndrome and a cervical spine injury as a result of her employment. She had been recommended surgery for both parts. She accrued $44,265.22 in disputed medical treatment and claimed entitlement to an additional $25,757.04 in TTD benefits.
At trial, the Respondent exposed the suspect causal connection opinions provided by two of Petitioner treating physicians. Respondent presented testimony from a credible IME, who had detailed information concerning Petitioner’s employment. In addition to the medical opinions, the arbitrator did not find Petitioner’s testimony to be credible. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Respondent on all issues, and no benefits were awarded to Petitioner. No appeal was filed.
- Stephanie Armstrong v. Southwest Airlines (09 WC 3716)
The Petitioner worked as a ramp agent for Southwest Airlines. Petitioner testified that on March 11, 2008, that as she was walking from the runway to the breakroom when she slipped on de-icer fluid, causing her to fall to her knees. The alleged accident was unwitnessed, and was promptly reported to Petitioner’s supervisor.
A post-accident investigation revealed that Petitioner filed a lawsuit against a restaurant alleging the same mechanism of fall in February 2008, which was dismissed. During the post-accident recorded statement, the Petitioner denied the prior claim. The claim was denied by Respondent based on this misrepresentation.
Respondent unsuccessfully attempted to settle the matter on a disputed basis before trial. During cross-examination, Petitioner again denied having a prior claim against the restaurant. She was then presented with her prior recorded statement from the restaurant claim, and Petitioner eventually admitted that she had been lying during testimony. Petitioner’s attorney stopped the hearing, and agreed to settle the case for $1 in exchange of Respondent’s agreement not to pursue fraud action. Petitioner never signed the settlement contracts that were prepared, and on a later date the Arbitrator wrote against the Petitioner on all issues. No benefits were awarded.
- Alicia Cabrera v. Best Practices Staffing (12 WC 7162)
This matter was initially accepted as compensable by Respondent. The Petitioner was a meatpacker who testified that on February 12, 2012, that she sustained an injury when right hand was trapped between two boxes on the conveyor belt at which she was working, causing her right hand/wrist to hyperextend. Respondent paid approximately 8 weeks of TTD benefits until the claim. Petitioner was recommended a right wrist arthroscopy to address a TFCC tear.
The surgical recommendations were denied by Respondent pursuant to an IME. After attempts at a disputed settlement failed, the case proceeded to arbitration. Respondent strategically disputed the accident as Petitioner alleged, in addition to presenting its medical evidence in support of its causal connection defense.
Respondent presented two witnesses from the location, who testified that Petitioner did not immediately report the accident (accident reported two days later despite “dizzying” pain levels). Respondent also challenged the mechanism of injury as the Petitioner alleged. The arbitrator found that Petitioner was not credible regarding her accident, and denied the case based on the lack of accident. Respondent was awarded a credit for the TTD benefits previously paid.
- Angela Brown v. Southwest Airlines (11 WC 20141)
The Petitioner testified that on March 31, 2011, that she felt pain in her lower back after pushing a wheelchair passenger down the jet way. The Petitioner called in sick to work from April 1 through April 4, 2011. She was scheduled off work on April 5 and April 6, 2011. When she returned to work on April 7, 2011, she brought with her a note from her personal physician which stated she could return to full duty work on that day after being off as a result of a work related accident. It was at that time the Petitioner reported the alleged accident to her supervisor.
Petitioner initiated medical treatment on March 3, 2011, approximately four weeks prior to the alleged work accident. When she initially presented, she complained of pain in her right side, her mid back, and her right thumb. She explained that these symptoms were the result of a motor vehicle accident on February 5, 2011. The Petitioner reported that she was not evaluated following the motor vehicle accident, but her symptoms persisted. She presented to this provider on a number of occasions throughout the month of March. On April 3, 2011, she reported that she sustained a new injury at work on March 31, 2011, when pushing a wheelchair. She explained that she injured her mid to lower back. The Petitioner received a minimal amount of medical treatment related to her mid to lower back, but continued receiving medical treatment until at least June 30, 2011 with her continued neck pain.
After a disputed settlement could not be reached, the case proceeded to arbitration. Respondent concentrated its cross examination on the fact that Petitioner had the opportunity to report the accident on any of the days that she called in sick, but she did not. Respondent also presented witness testimony to explain the accident reporting policies, a process Petitioner denied having gone through. The arbitrator found that Petitioner lacked credibility, and therefore failed to meet her burden of proof in regard to accident. The arbitrator found in favor of the Respondent on all issues. No benefits were awarded.