John T. Dibble is an arbitrator in Illinois. He was very active in the cases for carpal tunnel syndrome filed by 230 guards at the Menard Correctional Center. The guards alleged that their injuries were due primarily to the constant turning of keys in antiquated and rather sticky locks. No diddler, Mr. Dibble approved over half of the repetitive trauma cases filed by the guards, who collected nearly $10 million in a three year period. The repetitive filings for repetitive motion have caught the eye of Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has appointed a lawyer to investigate. NOTE to lawyer: WD 40 can do wonders for sticky locks.
It turns out that Mr. Dibble's sympathies run deep. In fact, he has some shared experience with the prison guards who come before him. On November 12, 2009, Mr. Dibble fell on the steps at a hearing office in Herrin. He filed a claim for "post-traumatic carpal tunnel" [whatever that may be], claiming injuries to "both knees, both hands, both elbows and (his) left little finger." That would be the finger he holds up in the air when partaking of his post-hearing tea, I suppose.
Mr. Dibble settled his case for $48,790. The payment included a 17.5% loss of function for each hand and a 7.5% loss of function in his little finger. The check was cut based upon a form signed by three parties: the office of the attorney general, a Central Management Services official and Dibble himself. Mysteriously, the award was not listed in the comp commisioner's online data base. The actual case file has disappeared - and I'm guessing that the medical records have disappeared as well. It would be fascinating to read the doctor's report that resulted in Mr. Dibble's rather generous loss of function awards.
The job of arbitrator in Illinois is hazardous, indeed. Seven of the state's 32 arbitrators either filed for or received a workers comp payment, including three for repetitive trauma. You know what happens: you listen, day in and day out, to the prison guards's tales of woe, and eventually your fingers start to tingle and your wrist aches a bit. It's the price you pay - and perhaps the reward you reap - for lending a sympathetic ear.
Kudos to reporters George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer of the Belleview News Democrat for their coverage of this story.