I Can’t Bear to Look

Published May 28, 2013

In Illinois, an appellate court has upheld a Chicago city bus driver’s claim for emotional distress for having had to look at the body of the man she had just killed by running over him with her bus.

According to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, after stopping her bus to let passengers off and on at Ashland Avenue and Harrison Street a little west of Chicago’s downtown, Chicago Transit Authority bus driver Sylvia Timms then proceeded through the intersection until alerted by a passenger that someone had been hit by the bus. The driver stopped the bus, got out, and saw the man she had just run over, James Mentor, who later died of his injuries, lying on the street.

Ms. Timms was fired from her job but then applied for disability benefits, claiming the sight of the dying Mr. Mentor on the street caused her severe emotional injuries. An arbitrator awarded Ms. Timms six weeks of disability pay and reimbursement of roughly $3,000 in medical expenses, which the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Circuit Court of Cook County, and the Illinois Appellate Court all then affirmed.

“She watched the pedestrian dying on the side of the road,” Justice William E. Holdridge wrote by way of explaining the Illinois Appellate Court’s opinion. “This is exactly the type of ‘exceptionally distressing’ and ‘uncommon’ work-related experience that may support an award under Pathfinder [Co. v. Industrial Commission, 62 Ill. 2d 556 (1976)],” one of the Illinois Supreme Court’s earlier precedents.

Source: Chicago Transit Authority v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, et al. No. 2013 IL App (1st) 120253WC (Third District, March 11, 2013)