01 Aug 2023

IFMK Law Attorney Jason Stetz recently secured a finding of no liability at trial on a case in which proper notice of a work-related accident was at issue. The petitioner, a custodian for an Illinois municipality, alleged an unwitnessed accident at work, in which he suffered an injury to his right shoulder which led to total shoulder replacement. He alleged that he provided notice of the accident to his supervisor who had since retired. The supervisor left notes disputing that petitioner ever provided notice of the accident.

An investigation found that the petitioner had a formal disciplinary hearing with the municipality on an unrelated injury for violation of medical leave policy. During the hearing, he admitted that he had not provided notice of his work-related shoulder injury.

The manager of the custodial department, who was also present at the disciplinary hearing, was called as a trial witness. The manager testified regarding the reporting policy of the custodial department and also to the diligence of the petitioner's manager; indicating that she would have definitely made a record of petitioner's accident had he reported it to her.

At trial, the petitioner testified with the assistance of a translator. During testimony, he alleged that a language barrier prevented him from fully understanding the process of reporting a work-related injury. However, petitioner routinely began answering questions in English prior to the interpreter relating the question to him. Additionally, he was able to successfully file an application for FMLA leave for the unrelated injury.

Based on treatment records and the mechanism of the accident, the arbitrator found that the petitioner likely suffered a work-related injury, and that treatment had been reasonable and necessary. However, the arbitrator also found petitioner's testimony to lack credibility regarding notice and found no liability for the respondent.