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Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Police Officer’s Workers’ Comp Claim

The Illinois Appellate Court has affirmed the decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission — and therefore, upheld an award of benefits to a community service officer who was injured when he fell down a flight of stairs at a police station. The appellate court agreed with the original decision that the officer’s employment put him at a greater risk of injury.

In Village of Villa Park v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, the Village of Villa Park appealed an order from the circuit court, which confirmed the Commission’s award of benefits to community service officer John Simons. The circuit court found that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.

Simons was injured on April 5, 2007 while he was on duty at a Village police station. As a community service officer, he performed duties that included parking enforcement, police officer backup and accident reports. Simons’ knee gave out as he descended a staircase, and he sustained injuries to his lower back and right knee. He was treated at the Elmhurst Hospital emergency room.

Simons had injured his knee in a prior fall unrelated to his employment, and another officer observed that Simons was walking with a limp prior to the fall at work. However, a different officer testified that he had not noticed Simons limping before the accident.

Usually, risks personal to an employee are not compensable unless the employment places the worker at a greater risk. Simons’ case revolved around whether an exception applied to the general rule of noncompensability for injuries caused by personal risk. The appellate court agreed with the original ruling and held that the officer’s employment put him at a greater risk of injury than the general public and that his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.

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Nearly $13 million award in birth injury lawsuit

A Michigan woman in a birth injury lawsuit has been awarded almost $13 million by a jury.

The lawsuit alleged that Genesys Regional Medical Center made mistakes during the delivery of the woman’s daughter, disfiguring the girl and restricting her from the full use of her arm.

The lawsuit stated that during the January 2008 delivery, the baby’s shoulder became lodged underneath the pelvic bone, a condition that is known as shoulder dystocia.

Reported instances of shoulder dystocia have greatly increased in recent decades, perhaps as a result of a corresponding increase in average birth weight.

Shoulder dystocia can often be dealt with successfully during delivery, but the lawsuit argued that the doctor pulled down on the baby’s head too much, causing an injury to the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves near the shoulder. The lawsuit claimed that the doctor should have recommended a cesarean section or used a different method that would place less stress upon the baby.

The hospital said that the mother received appropriate treatment and that there were no complications that indicated that a cesarean section was necessary.

The baby was born with a disfigured arm. Now five years old, she has undergone several surgeries and continues to wear a brace on her malformed arm. Doctors have classified the injury as permanent and have said that it will require continued therapy.

Medical Malpractice Case Settles for $17 Million

A suburban Chicago man has accepted a $17 million settlement in a brain injury medical malpractice case.

Alexander Williams of Harvey, Illinois alleged that he suffered serious brain injuries after medical personnel at the University of Chicago Medical Center failed to diagnose an infection when Williams was treated there in 2003.

Williams currently has trouble speaking, is confined to a wheelchair and is not able to use the left side of his body, including his left eye. The settlement will enable him to undergo physical and occupational therapy and receive daily nursing care.

According to news reports, Williams visited the emergency room at the University of Chicago Medical Center on September 6, 2003 with a temperature of 101 degrees, a severe headache, a rapid heart rate and pain in his chest and back. Williams was born with a heart defect and had previously had endocarditis, which put him at risk for subacute bacterial endocarditis, an infection of the heart.

According to the complaint filed in the case, hospital officials failed to test for the condition and instead gave Williams ibuprofen and released him — only to have him return to the emergency room with the same symptoms two days later. According to court documents, the condition was eventually diagnosed, but the delayed diagnosis meant that surgery could not be performed until 17 days later, when heart tissue had already been destroyed by the infection.

According to recent studies, diagnostic mistakes account for anywhere from 26 percent to 63 percent of all medical malpractice claims.

USPS facility in Illinois cited for safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor cited a U.S. Postal Service facility in Champaign, Illinois for eight safety violations. The administration proposed fines of $144,000. During a June 2013 complaint inspection, inspectors found a lack of fall protection and energy control procedures that exposed employees to increased risk of work injuries.

The inspection found safety violations in the training provided for stopping equipment before clearing jams. Inspectors found that workers were exposed to amputation and laceration hazards due to the potential for unintentional operation of the conveyor while jams were being cleared.

The citations included four repeat violations, including failure to ensure that each device had a tagout or lockout device affixed by authorized employees and failure to conduct inspections of energy control procedures. Other violations included failure to ensure the uniform height of stairway risers and inadequate fall protection for workers clearing jams on a conveyor.

Three violations were cited as “serious,” meaning that there is a substantial probability that serious physical harm or death could occur as the result of a hazard of which the employer was aware or should have been aware.

The Champaign facility employs 294 workers. About 434,000 people work for the Postal Service nationwide.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Likely After Park Forest Officer Charged in Death of 95-Year-Old

Cook County prosecutors have charged a Park Forest police officer with felony reckless conduct after the death of a 95-year-old resident of a senior citizen home.

The charges were filed against Officer Craig Taylor. Taylor shot five beanbag rounds at the elderly man with a shotgun after the man allegedly wielded a knife. The senior citizen, John Wrana, began bleeding internally and died the next day.

Police were called to the senior citizen home in Park Forest after Wrana allegedly threatened other residents and struck a medical technician with his cane. The technician was attempting to transport Wrana to a hospital where a psychiatric evaluation was to be conducted. When police were called, Wrana allegedly threatened to stab officers with a knife.

Taylor’s attorney stated that the officer was acting on behalf of his superiors and was not making unilateral decisions about how to handle the standoff.

An attorney for Sharon Mangerson (Wrana’s stepdaughter) said that the family was glad that Taylor had been arrested and that he should have been charged with the more serious crime of involuntary manslaughter. The lawyer stated that the family would “likely” file a wrongful death lawsuit but would wait for the outcome of the criminal case.

In court, a prosecutor said that the officers made the decision to attempt a violent extrication within seven minutes of arriving at the senior citizen home, and that other viable options to resolve the situation were ignored.

Study shows medical malpractice claims are not causing increase in health care costs

Some still argue that high payments in medical malpractice lawsuits drive up the cost of health care, but an examination of the facts shows that this claim is false.

Between 2000 and 2011, health care spending increased by 97 percent, but the value of medical malpractice payments decreased by 12 percent. Research shows that total medical malpractice payments have continued to decrease, that such payments account for a small percentage of health care costs and that most payments are for very serious injuries.

The nonprofit group Public Citizen reviews data on medical malpractice cases each year. In its most recent report, for 2011, the group found that medical malpractice payments on doctors’ behalf had dropped for the eighth consecutive year, and had reached their lowest level since 1991.

In 2013, medical malpractice payments on doctors’ behalf accounted for only 0.12 percent of national health care costs.

According to the National Practitioner Data Bank, 80 percent of 2011 medical malpractice payments compensated victims for serious injuries such as brain damage, quadriplegia, injuries requiring lifelong care and death.

Medical errors are a serious problem with grave consequences. It is estimated that more than 700,000 Medicare patients experience a serious adverse event that is preventable each year. In 80,000 of those cases, the error contributed to the patient’s death. In contrast, only 9,758 medical malpractice payments were made on doctors’ behalf in 2011 — all leading Public Citizen to conclude that most medical malpractice errors do not result in litigation.

Family of Junior Seau objects to NFL concussion settlement, says wrongful death claims should be treated differently

The family of Junior Seau, an NFL player who committed suicide in 2012, has objected to the league’s $760 million proposal to settle a lawsuit by thousands of former players over the risk of concussion injuries. Seau’s family said that wrongful death claims should be treated differently from injury claims.

The deal has already been rejected by a federal judge, who felt it did not allocate enough money for such a large group of plaintiffs. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, $5 million would be allocated for each former player with a diagnosis of a brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head during NFL practice and play. However, attorneys for Seau’s family said that only a minimal payment of a few thousand dollars would be available for family members of retired or deceased players.

Seau died in 2012 from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. Later studies of his brain confirmed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease that results from repeated head trauma and that can cause dementia and aggressive behavior.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Philadelphia, has 4,500 plaintiffs. Up to 20,000 former players could eventually receive payment.

After the judge’s rejection of the NFL’s settlement offer, experts said that the league would likely have to negotiate a higher settlement. Seau’s family asked the judge to take their concerns into account in deciding on future settlement proposals.

Jury awards $55 million in birth injury case

A jury awarded a large verdict to a West Virginia couple whose son suffered birth injuries leading to cerebral palsy.

After a two-week trial, the jury awarded $55 million to the parents, finding St. Luke’s University Hospital and a doctor liable for the injuries.

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects muscle control, body movement, posture, reflexes and balance. It can be caused by damage to the brain during birth.

The lawsuit alleged that the baby was not getting enough oxygen during the November 2009 delivery, but the doctor failed to notice. The baby became stuck in the birth canal, and the mother began hemorrhaging. The doctor allegedly used vacuum extraction to dislodge the baby, resulting in more oxygen deprivation. The lawsuit alleged that the doctor should have used a cesarean section.

The parents claimed that their son suffered permanent injuries as a result of the delay in emergency action. At the age of four, the boy continues to suffer from difficulties in physical movement and language development.

Although the jury awarded $55 million, the family is expected to receive less than that, due to an agreement reached prior to the verdict. The details of the agreement have not been disclosed.

The hospital maintains that it provided adequate care.

US Post Office Cited for Safety Violations and The 3 Most Common Birth Injury Causes – Podcast

US Post Office branches in Illinois have been cited for safety violations. Plus we talk about the 3 most common birth injury causes on this month’s Chicago Injury Alert.

Proposed legislation would limit workers’ comp

In Illinois, legislation has been proposed that would limit employees’ ability to receive workers’ compensation for injuries sustained in accidents on the way to work.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter (R, Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 2622, which would prevent requirements for employers to provide workers’ compensation if a worker was not traveling specifically for work purposes when he or she was injured.

The proposed law states that an injured worker may only receive compensation if the injury “arises out of and in the course of employment” and while the worker is “actively engaged in the duties” of his or her employment.

The legislation would deal with cases such as one recently decided by the Illinois Supreme Court, in which a Springfield pipefitter accepted a temporary job at a Rock Island County power plant. The worker stayed in a motel to avoid the 200 mile commute. On the way to work, the man and a coworker hit an icy patch of road and crashed. The worker was seriously injured.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found that the worker should receive compensation, but the state high court ruled that the worker made a personal decision to take the job knowing the length of commute required, and that he was therefore not a traveling employee.

Senate Bill 2622 was introduced before the Supreme Court ruling.

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The law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County. Briskman Briskman & Greenberg also represents injured people throughout Wisconsin, including Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Madison.
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