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Former Employee’s Injury While Attending IME: Not Compensable

By Jennifer L. Morris

On November 16, 2010, the Appellate Court delivered its opinion in Menard v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  The Menard decision confirmed that an employment relationship does not exist when a terminated claimant is injured while returning from an independent medical examination (IME).

The claimant in Menard originally filed a claim alleging that she suffered a work-related injury due to anxiety caused by conflicts while working for her employer.  She was terminated several months later for failing to report to work.  After her termination, the claimant traveled to Chicago for an IME set up by her former employer.  When leaving, she slipped on ice and suffered a back injury.  She then filed a second claim. 

At arbitration, the Arbitrator ruled that the claimant was an employee at the time of the IME because the examination related to her prior activities at work, and she had been directed by her former employer to attend.  The Arbitrator found that the accidental injury arose out of and in the course of the claimant’s employment.  On review, with one commissioner dissenting, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed with the decision of the Arbitrator.

The Circuit Court of Jackson County overturned the Commission’s ruling, finding that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide coverage for injuries occurring incident to an employer-mandated IME when the claimant is no longer an employee.  The claimant appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Court agreed with the denial by the Circuit Court, citing the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1948 ruling in Skelgas v. Industrial Commission.  In Skelgas, the claimant was killed in an accident while traveling to his IME.  The Supreme Court found that the claimant was not performing any task or duty of his employment by attending the IME, noting that the employer had an absolute right to an IME independent of the relationship between an employer and employee.  Accordingly, the accident was not compensable.

The facts of the recent Menard decision are nearly indistinguishable from those in Skelgas.  Although the Menard claimant suggested that Skelgas was bad law, the Appellate Court was bound to follow the Supreme Court’s decision.  Accordingly, the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court, finding that the claimant’s subsequent claim was not compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Originally published in the Winter 2010 edition of Quinn Quarterly.