The Illinois Industrial Commission Awarded Benefits To School Teacher Who Dislocated Shoulder While Swatting Insect In Her Classroom

A majority of the Commission held that a teacher’s attempt to swat an insect was compensable, reasoning that an insect flying in the classroom was a distraction to the teacher’s class and her attempt to swat the insect was to maintain order and control of the class. The dissent argued the flyswatter incident was not compensable because it is excluded as a positional risk.

Claimant, a French teacher at defendant high-school, testified that while teaching a class, a large insect flew into the classroom. The girls in the class were screaming as they thought it was a bee. Claimant swung at the insect with a flyswatter while reaching above her head and felt something strange in her right shoulder. She was diagnosed with an acute dislocation of her right shoulder.

During the following years, claimant repeatedly dislocated her right shoulder while sleeping, reaching across the passenger seat in her car and falling. Following surgery, claimant’s doctor opined that her recurrent dislocation of her right shoulder was related to the initial injury at school.

The arbitrator found claimant permanently disabled to the extent of 2.5% loss of use

A majority of the Commission modified the decision of the arbitrator to find claimant entitled to 25% loss of use of the right arm. The majority found, based on the credible testimony of the claimant, that the insect flying in the classroom was a distraction to her class and the claimant’s attempt to swat the insect was to maintain order and control of her class. Therefore, claimant’s attempt to swat the insect was related to her responsibilities as a teacher.

The dissent argued the flyswatter incident was not compensable because it is excluded as a positional risk. The diss explained that an insect entering a classroom was not a risk of employment. Further, the dissent argued causal relationship was not established, contending claimant had a congenital condition and the dislocations following the flyswatter incident were not work-related.

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