The Illinois Industrial Commission Majority Awarded Permanent Partial Disability Benefits For 40% Loss Of Use Of Right Foot Following Ankle Sprain That Subsequently Became Infected

A majority of the Commission held claimant’s septic arthritis to the right ankle and staph infection were causally connected to an incident at work in  which claimant twisted her ankle. The dissent argued claimant’s ankle condition was not the result of her accident at work, noting an infection specialist opined claimant’s ankle infection was due to tonsilitis and strep throat infections that had spread to her ankle.

Claimant, an employee at defendant’s sandwich shop, testified she turned her ankle on a wet floor at work. She worked the next day with a wrapped ankle and attended her school dance. She stated she only danced twice and then had to sit down.  Three days after the work accident, she noticed the right ankle was swollen and she went to the hospital emergency room. She was diagnosed with a right ankle sprain.  Two days later, claimant returned to the emergency room claimant she slipped on her crutches at home and further twisted the right ankle. Twenty days after the accident, claimant was admitted into the hospital with an infected ankle. She was diagnosed with septic arthritis to the right ankle with ostemyelitis of the medical maleoius and her ankle with was debrided.  A subsequent culture revealed a staph infection. She underwent a second surgery with a large skin graft.

The arbitrator found a causal connection between claimant’s ankle condition and her work accident and awarded permanent disability benefits for 40% loss of use of the right foot, relying on the testimony of two of claimant’s treating doctors. One doctor explained claimant had no ankle problems before the work accident and had no ankle problems before the work accident.  Further, the doctor explained that sometimes after people sprain their ankle, they develop bleeding inside the ankle joints, which could become infected.

Upon review, a majority of the Commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.

The dissent argued claimant’s ankle condition was not the result of her accident at work, noting claimant attended a school dance the day after her accident.  The dissent further noted claimant was referred to an infection specialist, who found claimant’s ankle infection was due to tonsilitis and strep throat infections that had spread to her ankle, where blood pools.