MOUNT VERNON – Glenda Forbes settled a workers compensation claim for $40,000 yet argued she could sue for more because she didn't really have a workers comp claim.
Fifth District appeals judges discarded her ingenious theory on Sept. 29, finding that her settlement with Bank of Edwardsville barred her civil suit.
They affirmed retired Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron, who dismissed the suit last year.
Forbes fell down stairs at the bank in 2006.
She filed for workers compensation, and the bank denied it.
A bank attorney wrote that she fell down public stairs that presented no difficulties or obstructions.
Forbes asked the Illinois workers compensation commission to adjust the claim.
Eight months later she accepted $40,000 and signed a release giving up trial before an arbitrator, appeal rights, and further medical treatment at the bank's expense.
Arbitrator Andrew Nafelski approved the settlement in 2007, writing that he reviewed it carefully in accordance with the workers compensation act.
Last year Forbes sued the bank.
Lawyer Stephen Evans of Clayton, Mo., wrote that she stepped on an inadequate and unsafe surface.
He wrote that the fall "was not and is not compensable" under workers compensation.
The bank didn't admit her injury was compensable, he reasoned, nor did the state commission rule the injury compensable.
For the bank, Donald Ohl of Edwardsville moved to dismiss.
Byron read the release and dismissed the suit.
Forbes fared no better at the Fifth District.
"Whether an injury is compensable under the workers compensation act does not depend upon whether the employer denies or acknowledges compensability," Justice Bruce Stewart wrote.
"Rather, the critical inquiry is whether the employee has been compensated under the workers compensation act," he wrote.
"The settlement contract gave Forbes's recovery the status of a workers compensation award and thereafter barred her from bringing any further civil lawsuit against that employer for the same injury," he wrote.
Justices James Wexstten and Stephen Spomer concurred.
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