Appellate Court: Workers Comp Commission NOT OBLIGATED to accept AMA impairment rating

The Fifth Appellate District of Illinois recently handed down a good decision for injured workers in Continental Tire of the Americas v. The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. The case is actually pretty straightforward. On January 31, 2012, Curtis Oltmann was working as a labor trainer for Continental Tire in southern Illinois. He tripped and fell while taking out some trash and landed on his left arm and hand. X-rays showed a fracture of the left wrist. Curtis had very limited medical treatment – which included a couple of visits with Dr. David Brown, an orthopedist. Dr. Brown saw Curtis in late February, 2012 and determined that he was at maximum improvement and could return to work with no restrictions. In March, 2012, Dr. Brown drafted a report which included a disability rating based upon AMA guidelines. He indicated there was no permanent impairment and Curtis was doing great. The case went to trial and the employer submitted Dr. Brown’s report. The arbitrator found that Curtis had suffered 5% loss of use of his left hand. The employer appealed to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission[“the Commission”]. The Commission affirmed the award. The employer then appealed to the Circuit Court which also agreed with the Commission. Finally, the employer appealed to the Appellate Court. The employer’s beef? Since only one report[Dr. Brown’s] was submitted and that report denied any permanent impairment, the employer felt no award should have been made to the employee.

The Appellate Court opinion is worth a read. The Court noted that the injured worker is not required to submit a written report from a doctor. Furthermore, if a party does submit a report from a doctor, that report should comply the rules in 820 ILCS 305/8.1b(a). Additionally, the Court noted that if a proper report is submitted, under 820 ILCS 305/8.1b(b), the Commission is required to consider the report. Additionally, there is no requirement that the Commission has to automatically adopt the findings of impairment in the report. Instead, the Commission is to consider all the factors in section 8.1b(b).

The Appellate Court noted that the Commission outlined its findings on all the appropriate factors they were to consider under Section 8.1b(b). Especially important was the fact that Curtis complained of some continuing pain when he used his wrist and Dr Brown acknowledged that continuing pain was not uncommon.

The Commission decision was affirmed.