The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded a high school gymnastics coach 40% loss of a person as a whole for his distal biceps tendon tear and repair, denying his requested wage differential award for a second time following remand from the Circuit Court, in Carello v. Northfield Township High School District #225, 05 WC 27417; 17 IWCC 0030 IWCC PDF.
The claimant suffered his injury while spotting a gymnast doing a back flip. The gymnast’s heel struck his left arm, tearing his distal biceps tendon. He underwent a biceps tendon tenotomy and repair and subsequent radial nerve neurolysis and excision of heterotopic bone and capsule in the elbow joint.
The claimant was given permanent restrictions of no spotting by the employer’s independent medical examiner, Dr. Michael Vender. Following a functional capacity evaluation, the physical therapist recommended that he could “return to all aspects of coaching gymnastics except those that require him to be responsible for supporting the weight, breaking the fall, lifting, or carrying of athletes.”
He requested wage differential benefits under section 8(d)(1) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, claiming the loss of his usual and customary occupation of coaching gymnastics. 820 ILCS 305/8(d)(1) Illinois General Assembly | IWCC PDF. Following an arbitration hearing, the arbitrator denied wage differential benefits, finding that the claimant failed to present sufficient evidence. Specifically, he voluntarily resigned, never requesting any accommodation from the school to continue coaching and there was no expert evidence from a vocational rehabilitation counselor, labor market survey, or job search.
Instead, the arbitrator awarded the claimant 40% loss of a person as a whole under section 8(d)(2) of the Act. 820 ILCS 305/8(d)(2) Illinois General Assembly | IWCC PDF. The Commission affirmed the arbitrator’s award and the claimant appealed to the Circuit Court.
The Circuit Court found that the Commission did not fully consider whether the claimant was entitled to wage differential benefits and ordered the Commission to make appropriate facts and findings. This can happen when the Commission summarily affirms the arbitrator’s decision.
On remand, the Commission reaffirmed its decision, focusing on the lack of evidence of any loss of earning capacity.