Jill Wagner Represents DHS Caseworker in Repetitive Trauma Case
Jill Wagner of Ankin Law Office secured permanent partial disability benefits and medical bill payments for a longtime employee of the Illinois Department of Human Services. The employee, a caseworker, sustained a repetitive trauma injury when she developed a right ring trigger-finger condition. The caseworker (Petitioner) testified she began experiencing pain as her right ring finger “locked.” She notified her supervisor of this.
She saw Dr. Tansey at Bone and Joint Physicians the same day and the doctor indicated that the woman had been experiencing pain over the base of her right ring finger for about one month. He described the pain as “associated with triggering.” On examination, he noted a full range of hand motion and triggering of the right ring finger. After discussing various treatment options with the petitioner, he administered a steroid injection and directed her to “avoid exacerbating activities” and return in three weeks. When the steroid injections failed to offer relief the caseworker was forced to undergo a series of doctor appointments and treatments over the next five years.
The DHS caseworker testified that her injuries affect her daily life and typical activities. Her left hand is weaker than her right. It is difficult for her to lift bags of groceries, wring out dish towels and brush her teeth and hair.
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Summary of the Arbitrator Decision:
The Arbitrator finds that Petitioner established repetitive trauma injuries manifesting on March 27, 2009. The Arbitrator views March 27, 2009, as an appropriate manifestation date based on Petitioner’s testimony as to the locking she experienced and the notice she provided on that date. The Arbitrator further finds that Petitioner established a causal connection between her repetitive trauma injuries and her current post-operative right ring finger condition of ill-being. in so finding, the Arbitrator relies on Petitioner’s credible description of her duties, her credible account of the events of March 27, 2009, her credible denial of possible contributing systemic disorders such as diabetes, the records of Drs. Tansey, Wiesman and Gelman and Dr. Gelman’s report. Dr. Gelman opined that triggering can be caused by bending the fingers. Petitioner would have had to repeatedly bend her fingers in order to keyboard, hold a phone or writing implement, move a computer mouse or extract a file from a stack.
The Arbitrator notes that Respondent’s examiner, Dr. Fernandez, did not question the triggerfinger diagnosis and acknowledged he received only a few treatment records. Dr. Fernandez based his causation-related opinions on the assumption that Petitioner’s job duties were limited to keyboarding, using a phone and “simple administrative tasks.” He conceded that forceful gripping could contribute to the development of trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome but saw no evidence that Petitioner performed such gripping. At no time did he express any awareness of the condition of Respondent’s file room or the fact that Petitioner was regularly required to pull files out of stacks and drawers in this room. Nor did he express any awareness of the duties Petitioner performed while helping clean the file room. He reviewed a job description, which is not in evidence, but there is no indication that this description accurately reflected Petitioner’s duties insofar as file retrieval and lifting were concerned. Petitioner testified to having to retrieve and carry at least 10 to 15 client files per workday. She also testified to handling and rearranging files approximately sixteen hours per month while working overtime in 2009. No one rebutted her testimony that she was required to extract files from stacks and drawers.
The Arbitrator awards Petitioner Dr. Wiesman’s bill in the amount of $3,189.82, subject to the fee schedule and with Respondent receiving credit for any payments it may have made toward this bill. (RX 6, a payment print-out, shows a payment for treatment rendered on August 12, 2009, but it is not clear whether this payment was made to Dr. Wiesman.) This bill relates to the triggerfinger surgery of August 12, 2009, and several postoperative office visits through September 29, 2009. The Arbitrator also awards Petitioner the Windy City Anesthesia bill in the amount of $1,680.00, subject to the fee schedule. This bill relates to the anesthesia administered during the August 12, 2009, surgery. PX 1. Respondent’s print-out (RX 6) does not reflect any payments to Windy City Anesthesia.
The Arbitrator awards permanency equivalent to 30% loss of use of the right ring finger, equivalent to 8.1 weeks of benefits. In making this award, the Arbitrator notes that the first surgery, performed by Dr. Wiesman, did not relieve Petitioner’s symptoms and that, in his “re-do” operative report, Dr. Gelman described the A2 pulley as “partially destroyed.” The Arbitrator also relies on Petitioner’s credible testimony concerning her ongoing triggering.