Katz Friedman helped a UAW member fight Caterpillar at a hearing for a Workers’ Compensation claim regarding a repetitive work injury that caused carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Arbitrator awarded her full benefits and an injury settlement after a full hearing.
The assembly line worker has been employed with Caterpillar in Decatur for over 10 years. During that time, she worked on multiple lines and assembled large mining trucks using all sorts of air guns, pneumatic, torque, and hand tools. As a result of her repetitive work, she developed carpal tunnel and eventually needed a carpal tunnel release surgery.
Caterpillar denied her Workers’ Compensation claim indicating that her work duties were not repetitive or forceful enough to cause her conditions. They attempted to have their plant physician do a shop walk and document her work duties to confirm their denial that her work was not repetitive or forceful. Caterpillar also obtained a medical evaluation from a hired doctor to indicate her carpal tunnel was not work-related but was due “…to the fact that she is a middle-aged female with a history of smoking” and determined it was idiopathic. This medical term states that the condition just happened “spontaneously,” so it is a convenient way for employers, like Caterpillar, to attempt to evade liability for injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Katz Friedman continued to fight Caterpillar every step of the way despite their continued arguments. Katz Friedman took the additional steps of deposing the treating surgeon and Caterpillar’s hired medical expert regarding their respective medical analysis which was then presented at trial. The case was then tried at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The Arbitrator awarded the UAW local 751 member
full benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act indicating that her work duties did in fact cause of her injuries, specifically her carpal tunnel syndrome. The injured worker was also awarded Temporary Total Disability (TTD) for the weeks she was disabled from work, payment of all her medical bills, and awarded a Permanent Partial Disability award for a surgically operated carpal tunnel injury.
The Arbitrator’s decision highlighted that Caterpillar’s representations of the union member’s work duties were not credible. It appeared to the Arbitrator that Caterpillar’s attempts to illustrate the employee’s work duties were inconsistent with what was actually performed at the plant, therefore, undermining their own credibility. Caterpillar’s own witness admitted on cross-examination that the injured worker’s testimony of her job duties was a fair representation of her job.
The Arbitrator also found that their internal report analyzing the employee’s work duties, which Caterpillar heavily relied on to deny the work comp claim, was unreliable and questionable in nature. Katz Friedman’s attorney cross-examined their witness again, this time on their physician’s “shop walk report,” and they admitted it appeared to include errors or omissions, so they were not sure what their plant doctor actually reviewed. Therefore, after Katz Friedman’s attorney highlighted these errors by Caterpillar and their plant doctor, the Arbitrator stated it could not be used at trial to support Caterpillar’s argument.
Katz Friedman then solidified the case by presenting evidence that the union member assembled multiple parts every day requiring over 300 bolts which required the use of torque guns, air guns, and clicker wrenches. A job analysis report was also entered into evidence documenting that the injured employee used over 37 tools in her assembly duties.
As a result of the trial testimony of the injured worker, the cross-examination admissions of Caterpillar’s witness, the trial evidence documents Katz Friedman’s attorney created, the testimonies and admissions Katz Friedman’s attorney obtained through depositions of the treating surgeon and Caterpillar’s medical expert, the union member was able to walk away from this experience with a very favorable decision and a good compensation award.
Do you have a workplace injury or a repetitive work injury like carpal tunnel syndrome? Get in touch with an experienced workplace injury attorneys Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca who specialize in litigating these types of injuries and claims. Our attorneys have many years of experience providing clients just like you with the beneficial advice and strong advocacy needed to produce positive results. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.
UAW Local 751 Members, we’re also available to meet you at your Union Hall free of charge to discuss your work or personal injury. Contact Deanna at your Union Hall to schedule an appointment.