When I was in law school in Chicago way back in 1994, I learned a lot. One of most vivid memories is my torts professor giving us examples of how random things could be a tort (injury case). It was great training for becoming a work comp attorney because it has helped me look for cases in what may not be the most obvious situations.

The reality is that many people get hurt at work in Illinois doing activities that are not part of their core job. People aren’t robots and they will do things to help out, be kind or because they took initiative. When your employer is benefiting from your actions and you get hurt, it’s almost always a workers compensation case.

I’m a fan of “The Office” and find myself watching it and at times thinking of how certain actions could be a work comp case. One of the things that happens on the show is that Pam, Angela, Phyllis and others serve on a party planning committee. Although the three of them have different functions at work (reception, sales, accounting), they work together in a way that benefits Dunder Miflin.

I never saw them get hurt on a show, but if they did while planning a party and their office was in Illinois instead of PA, they’d likely have a case.

This situation happened in real life in a case that was recently decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In that case, an employee at Helping Hands was decorating an area around her supervisor’s desk as it was their birthday. She fell while standing on a desk and injured herself.

Her normal job was that of a medical assistant and while she wasn’t instructed to decorate, it was normal practice at this company to decorate and celebrate on birthdays and other occasions. It doesn’t take a lot of knowledge to know that the employer would benefit from the good will this creates.

The insurance company disputed her case because she wasn’t ordered to decorate, but fortunately this injured worker won after a trial. It was noteworthy that she had done this activity many times before without being told not to and on at least one prior occasion was asked by her supervisor to do it.

Because no good deed goes unpunished the case was fought, but that’s really more of a reflection of Illinois work comp insurance companies than anything. They’ll fight any case they can even when it’s a long shot. It’s their goal to not make this process easy.

Fortunately the good guy won in the end, just as they would have if their name was Pam or Angela and their boss was Michael Scott.