Case Study

No Collection for Toll Employee

Facts

The petitioner, a toll booth worker and former weightlifter, began to experience left shoulder pain a few years prior to 2010.  An x-ray of the left shoulder taken in November of 2011 demonstrated mild arthritic changes about the glenohumeral joint with mild AC arthritis.  A left shoulder MRI scan the same month revealed severe post-traumatic or osteoarthritic degenerative changes with marked chondromalacia, a small partial-thickness rotator cuff tear and mild bursitis.  He subsequently underwent an injection into the shoulder. 

On March 6, 2012, the petitioner returned to his shoulder physician, complaining of pain in the left shoulder and left knee, reporting that he had been involved in an altercation four days prior.  The doctor diagnosed a left rotator cuff tear and opined that it was related to the petitioner’s “active adult activities” and his duties working in a toll booth, specifically the extending of his arm up and above to tractor trailers and down to passenger cars.  The doctor recommended conservative treatment, including physical therapy and injections.

Issues

– Did the petitioner sustain an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment on March 6, 2012?

– Did the petitioner provide timely notice of the alleged accident to his employer?

Outcome

The Arbitrator found that petitioner failed to prove that he sustained an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment on March 6, 2012. The Arbitrator pointed out the petitioner’s extensive pre-existing history of left shoulder problems, for which he had received extensive treatment within less than a year prior to the alleged date of accident.  The Arbitrator also viewed video evidence of the typical work activities of a toll booth collector and found that such activities did not constitute repetitive trauma, especially in light of the fact that most motorists in fact extend their arms close enough to the toll booth such that little or no reaching out and up is required by the toll booth operator. The Arbitrator further found that the causation opinion of the treating physician was based on conjecture and speculation and thus of no probative value.

With regard to notice, the Arbitrator found that the petitioner failed to provide notice to the employer of his left shoulder injury within 45 days of March 6, 2012. The Arbitrator found it relevant that as a 20-year employee, the petitioner failed to prepare a written report of injury, as per the employer’s protocol. A representative of the employer testified that she only became aware of an alleged shoulder injury in late 2012, following the filing of the Application for Adjustment of Claim on August 29, 2012.

Based on these findings, the Arbitrator denied the petitioner’s claim for compensation and the claim was dismissed.  The Arbitration Decision was affirmed and adopted by the Commission.

Robert Palamar v. Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, 12 WC 30587