In Dunteman v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2016 IL App (4th) 150543WC Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF, the Illinois Appellate Court considered the doctrine of “independent intervening accidents.”
The claimant was a driver who developed a water blister on the bottom of his foot from driving. After lancing the blister himself, the claimant’s foot became infected and required significant medical intervention.
While there was no dispute that the blister was the result of an accident arising out of and in the course of employment, the employer disputed that the current condition of ill-being was causally related to this accident.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed and found that the claimant’s lancing of the blister was an “independent intervening accident” that “broke the chain of causation.” The claimant appealed and the Appellate Court overturned the Commission’s decision.
In its opinion, the Appellate Court considered the rules of law set forth in prior cases:
“Every natural consequence that flows from an injury that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment is compensable under the [Illinois Workers’ Compensation] Act absent the occurrence of an independent intervening accident that breaks the chain of causation between the work-related injury and an ensuing disability or injury.” National Freight Industries v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2013 IL App (5th) 120043WC Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF.
“Under an independent intervening cause analysis, compensability for an ultimate injury or disability is based upon a finding that the employee’s condition was caused by an event that would not have occurred ‘but for’ the original injury.” National Freight Industries v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2013 IL App (5th) 120043WC Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF.
“For an employer to be relieved of liability by virtue of an intervening cause, the intervening cause must completely break the causal chain between the original work-related injury and the ensuing condition.” Global Products v. Workers’ Compensation Commission, 392 Ill. App. 3d 408 (2009) Google Scholar | [Illinois Courts PDF.
A work-related injury “need not be the sole causative factor, nor even the primary causative factor, as long as it was a causative factor in the resulting condition of ill-being.” Sisbro, Inc. v. Industrial Commission, 207 Ill. 2d 193 (2003) (emphasis in original) Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF.
As long as there is a “but-for” relationship between the work-related injury and subsequent condition of ill-being, the employer remains liable. Global Products v. Workers’ Compensation Commission, 392 Ill. App. 3d 408 (2009) Google Scholar | [Illinois Courts PDF.
In this case, the Appellate Court found that “but-for” the existence of a work-related blister to lance, the claimant clearly would not have suffered the infection. The claimant’s work-related injury was a cause of his current condition of ill-being.
Additional cases cited by the Appellate Court in support:
International Harvester Co. v. Industrial Commission, 46 Ill. 2d 238 (1970) (subsequent personal attack did not break causal chain) Google Scholar.
Harper v. Industrial Commission, 24 Ill. 2d 103 (1962) (subsequent suicide did not break causal chain) Google Scholar.
Vogel v. Industrial Commission, 354 Ill. App. 3d 780 (2005) (subsequent automobile accidents did not break causal chain) Google Scholar.
Mendota Township High School v. Industrial Commission, 243 Ill. App. 3d 834 (1993) (subsequent sports injury and sneezing episode did not break causal chain) Google Scholar.
Fermi National Accelerator Lab v. Industrial Commission, 224 Ill. App. 3d 899 (1992) (subsequent fall from use of crutches did not break causal chain) Google Scholar.
Decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission on remand from the Appellate Court. IWCC PDF.