Maintenance Worker’s Bilateral Wrist Injuries Render Him PTD

Case name:  Kovack v. DuPage Airport Authority, 13 ILWCLB 223 (Ill. Ind. Comm. 2005).

Ruling:  The Commission held that a claimant who sustained serious injuries to both of his wrists as a result of work-related accidents was permanently totally disabled under the odd-lot category.

What it means:  The fact that there might be some jobs available to a disabled claimant does not negate a finding of PTD under the odd-lot category, where the claimant realistically is not employable in a labor market while competing with non-disabled potential employees.

Summary:  The claimant, a building maintenance technician, fell off a platform at work and injured his right wrist.  He underwent surgery and returned to part-time work while undergoing physical therapy. He subsequently fell backward off a ladder at work, fracturing his left wrist.  After two surgeries to the left wrist, the claimant continued to experience limited range of motion and tremendous pain in both wrists and did not return to work.  The Commission found the claimant permanently totally disabled under the odd-lot theory. Relying on testimony from the treating surgeon and a vocational counselor, the Commission determined there was no stable labor market for the claimant based on his condition, age, experience, training and education.

In so holding, the Commission relied on the testimony of the treating surgeon, who opined that the claimant was restricted to primarily sedentary duty with no lifting greater than 10 pounds and no repetitive wrist and forearm motions. Also convincing was the testimony of the claimant’s vocational counselor, who credibly testified that although there might be jobs available to the claimant, he realistically was not employable in the competitive labor market given his age- 64 at the time of the hearing,  limited education and physical capabilities, and presentation.  The claimant’s work history prior to working for the defendant involved mainly blue-collar jobs, including printing engraver, laborer, forklift operator and manufacturing. His job with the defendant was in building maintenance, which included HVAC, plumbing, carpentry and snow removal.  The Commission also pointed to the claimant’s limited but failed attempts to obtain employment.  Based on this evidence and testimony, the Commission found the preponderance of the credible evidence indicated the claimant was permanently and totally disabled from employment.