Workers' Compensation. (U.S. Judicial Decisions)

Article excerpt

The Illinois Supreme Court has found that, to claim workers' compensation for job-related stress, a person need not show that the stress was greater than that experienced by coworkers. Instead, the claimant must prove that the stress was greater than that experienced by the general public.

On March 13, 1990, Darwin Baggett collapsed at work. A high-school industrial arts teacher, Baggett fainted due to bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract. The ensuing reduction in blood volume led to cardiac arrest and brain damage, eventually rendering Baggett permanently disabled. Baggett filed a workers' compensation claim, alleging that his physical injuries were the result of job-related stress.

On November 9, 1994, an arbitrator held a hearing on Baggett's claim. Fourteen witnesses testified about the stress Baggett was under at work. Specifically, the members of Baggett's building trades class were required to build houses under strict deadlines. Prior to Baggett's injury, the school cut student hours by one-half, meaning that Baggett had to complete the houses while working only half days and with one class instead of two. Further, unanticipated delays made Baggett fall five weeks behind schedule.

Other witnesses testified that Baggett's students frequently engaged in horseplay, causing discipline to take up much of Baggett's time. The young students worked around scaffolding and power tools under dangerous conditions, requiring Baggett to closely monitor them. The school also required Baggett to purchase all the building materials and ensure that they were delivered to the school. As the deadlines approached, witnesses noted that Baggett became pale and tired and complained of stomach pain.

A number of witnesses testified on behalf of the school, noting that all of the teachers labored under varying degrees of stress. …