Work Comp Commission sues business to recover $50K paid over thumb injury

Kelly Holleran Jul. 18, 2012, 4:52am

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission has filed suit against the landscaping company that it claims has failed to pay more than $50,000 for medical costs incurred by one of its workers.

The commission claims Daniel Ponder was injured while working for defendant Robert L. Burton doing business as Burton Outdoors. While Ponder was helping to build a retaining wall in Cahokia, a block fell from above and smashed Ponder's thumb on March 25, 2008, according to the complaint filed July 13 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Following the incident, a co-worker drove Ponder to St. Elizabeth's Hospital. Later, a doctor treated Ponder, performing multiple surgeries to repair the damages caused to his thumb, the suit states.

More than one year later, doctors released Ponder to work, the complaint says. He landed a job at Steak N' Shake, but had problems completing work duties assigned to him because of a lack of strength and extreme pain in his thumb, the commission claims. The restaurant attempted to move Ponder to the dish room, but he could not handle the hot temperature of the water, according to the complaint. Within four months, Ponder was forced to stop working, the suit states.

Now, Ponder is looking at beginning certification classes, but still struggles with his thumb, the complaint says.

"Petitioner's symptoms worsen with activities such as gripping or grasping items," the suit states. "Petitioner also has significant increase in symptoms in damp or cold weather. Petitioner is unable to use any type of vibratory or impact tools as these increase symptoms in his thumb and hand."

Because of Ponder's situation, the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission determined that he has a right to $50,493.72. It paid Ponder the money, but says Burton now has a duty to reimburse it.

Burton has failed to repay the money, according to the complaint. Since then, the commission found that Burton violated an insurance requirement and has assessed additional penalties of $10,137.08.

In addition to the money it says it is owed, the commission is seeking costs.

It will be represented by Thomas C. Soraghan of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-1004.

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