Articles & Updates

Phillip Royster vs. City of Murphysboro

by James M. Gallen
      This was an alleged bilateral cubital and carpal tunnel claims filed by a 25-year police officer who had served as department firearms instructor for 24 years. Petitioner testified that as a condition of his employment he had to qualify with his gun quarterly. Each qualification involved shooting 50 rounds over a weekend. He also stated that, until the last five years, each officer would be permitted 50 rounds of ammunition per month. Since then that allotment has been cut back due to costs. Petitioner stated that he previously used a 9-millimeter gun but, about 3 to 4 years ago, they switched to a .40 caliber. He testified that the recall from a .40 is “ever so slightly greater” than that of a 9 mm. He said that his symptoms increased after he switched to the .40. Petitioner testified that he would shoot 200 to 250 rounds per month to maintain his proficiency, although, other than during the qualifications, that would be done on his own time and, excluding that provided by the department, with his own ammunition. He stated that he only worked nights and would drive most of the time. He would have to get out of the car 1 to 75 times per shift. He would drive with one hand and use the other hand to depress the radio mike on his shoulder. When he got out of the car he would always cradle his arms over his gun and his radio. When directing traffic at an accident site he would switch the flashlight from one hand to another.
      
      The police chief testified that state law requires twice yearly qualifications but he does not recall quarterly qualifications. Prior to his 10 years as chief, officers were supplied 50 rounds per month for personal use but he has only been able to let officers use the ammunition left over from the qualifications. When asked if officers needed to shoot frequently to maintain their proficiency he stated that he does not shoot much and he qualifies.

      
      Petitioner's treating doctor identified the duties as firearms instructor as the real genesis of petitioner’s carpal syndrome. He understood that petitioner did his own qualifications every quarter and that his monthly practice involving 100 to 150 rounds of .40 ammunition. The physician thought that his duties as a range instructor involved shooting another 500 to 600 rounds in a weekend of qualifications. He thought that the accumulation of impact and vibration to the wrist over the 20 years as a firearms instructor had been the biggest factor in his carpal tunnel syndrome. The treating physician testified that he shoots a .40 caliber and is familiar with a 9 mm. He described the difference in the recall as “huge” stating “there’s a big difference in the recall” with the .40 being greater.

      Respondent’s examining physician testified that petitioner’s obesity is a major explanation for the carpal tunnel syndrome and that there is no documented evidence that the slight recoil that occurs with shooting a 9 mm vs. a .40 would be causative and is certainly not repetitive. The examining physician testified that he has shot both kinds of guns his entire life. The examining physician concluded that the work did not contribute to the petitioner’s development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

      The Arbitrator found that petitioner failed to prove that he sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment, pointing out that the treating physicians understanding of the job duties are markedly at variance from that established by the testimony of the petitioner or the chief. The evidence established that the examining physician had a better understanding of the forces involving the petitioner’s actual work related shooting.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has affirmed this Decision.

James M. Gallen represented the Respondent in this case.

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