Slaughterhouse Worker Suffers Repetitive Trauma Shoulder Injury

Case name: Reynolds v. Excel Corp., 12 ILWCLB 49 (Ill.Ind.Comm.2004).

Ruling: The Commission awarded 25 weeks of temporary total disability and medical benefits to a slaughterhouse worker for a shoulder disability caused by repetitive activities at work.

What it means: An employee seeking benefits for gradual injury due to repetitive trauma must prove a precise, identifiable date when the accidental injury manifests itself. “Manifest” means the date on which both the fact of the injury and the causal relationship of the injury to the claimant’s employment would have become plainly apparent to a reasonable person.

Summary: The claimant, a slaughterhouse worker, was first assigned a job taking the skin off hog bellies using an air-powered knife. As she performed this job, she noticed that her shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers became very sore. She also performed the job of flipping pork bellies. Each belly weighed approximately 30 pounds and she flipped about 1,000 per shift. Three or four weeks after beginning her employment with the defendant, she began noticing problems in her shoulder. The Commission found that the claimant sustained repetitive trauma injuries to her left and right shoulders that arose out of her employment. Relying on the descriptions provided by the claimant and a manager, the Commission found the jobs the claimant performed were indeed repetitive.

Based on the un-rebutted testimony of the claimant, the Commission found that the repetitive trauma injuries to the shoulders manifested themselves six weeks after the claimant began her employment with the defendant. The claimant testified that she started noticing problems in her shoulders about three or four weeks after she began working. She had no doubt in her mind that the problems in her shoulders started while she was performing the flipping bellies job where she noticed pain and popping in her shoulders. Although in pain, she continued working. In the following nine months, the claimant complained of left shoulder pain to her doctor.