Workers' Compensation Defense
Robert Smith graduated from Beloit College in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Business Administration. He earned his Juris Doctorate from Northern Illinois University College of Law in 1989, graduating cum laude. Following law school, Robert went on to partnership at a large law firm. He has over 28 years of workers' compensation defense experience. Robert joined Gaido & Fintzen in 2011 to develop and lead its workers' compensation defense practice. Clients range from multiple Fortune 500 companies to smaller companies who want a strong voice. Robert specializes in problem-solving on medically and factually complex, high exposure cases. He successfully tried several of the first Utilization Review cases in Illinois, and continues to advocate for evidence-based medicine in workers' compensation.
Robert serves as a Chairman on the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness [2nd District; by appointment of the Supreme Court] and was previously appointed to the IWCC Rules Committee. He received the highest Martindale-Hubbell Peer and Judicial Review Rating of AV Preeminent for professional ability and for legal ethics. Robert has also been honored as follows:
- Best Lawyers in America and Chicago for workers' compensation defense by U.S. News and World Report;
- Illinois Leading Lawyer;
- Illinois Super Lawyer®;
- Illinois Top Lawyer in the workers' compensation practice area
Robert holds the MSCC license; Medicare Set-Aside Consultant Certified. In addition, he holds the Certified Medicare Secondary Payer Professional license (CMSP). He serves as Medicare Compliance counsel to a number of small and large companies. The comprehensive Medicare practice includes strategic planning to, in many cases, engineer appropriate and well formulated future medical allocations not submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Robert prepares future medical estimates that consider Primary Payer limits of liability with citation to case law.
Robert serves in a counsel oversight capacity for carriers; managing counsel in multiple jurisdictions.
Robert is active in the workers’ compensation community, providing legal training (as requested by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission) to Commissioners and Arbitrators regarding Utilization Review and serving on the Board of RISCA (Risk Insurance Strategic Claims Association). Robert presents annual seminars on "Recent Developments in Illinois Workers' Compensation" and makes presentations to employers, employer trade groups, insurance carriers, and medical groups on creative cost containment measures. He authored the article, “Notice Under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act”, and is a member of the National Alliance of Medicare Set-Aside Professionals (NAMSAP).
Robert serves as Judge for the American Association for Justice Mock Trial Competition. He also volunteers as a Fly Fishing Guide for cancer survivors through a charitable foundation.
Robert is licensed and practices law in Illinois and Wisconsin. This offers clients a single resource for regional workers compensation defense.
Notable Sample Cases
Donahue v. Village of Rosemont, 11 IWCC 718: This is an exceptionally high exposure wage differential claim with medical, factual, and economic factors. The successful defense of the employer showed the petitioner voluntarily limited his post-injury earnings. The trial result was an 8(d)2 award commensurate with the back surgery along with a substantial credit for benefits paid prior to trial. Affirmed by First District Appellate Court; December 2013.
Romero v. Wright Business, 07 L 51230: In this case involving successful use of Utilization Review, issues included a second surgery (lumbar fusion), extensive temporary total disability benefits, and a likely permanent inability to return to the pre-injury job. Independent Medical Examination evidence, witness testimony, and Utilization Review were woven together in favor of the employer. The Commission affirmed: (i) a lumbar fusion was not medically appropriate; (ii) the petitioner could return to full duty per the Independent Medical Examination; and (iii) there was a significant overpayment of temporary total disability as a result of the adoption of the Utilization Review and the Independent Medical Examination.
Fields v. Rossi, 05 L 50931: A semi dump truck driver was involved in a vehicle accident. He tested positive for marijuana, resulting in termination. Two significant aspects of this case established Commission precedent: (i) temporary total disability benefits may be stopped after employment termination when evidence shows light duty work was available; and (ii) the Commission need not defer to the treating physician when his/her opinion is based on incomplete information.
O'Toole v. United, 06 IWCC 460: In this high exposure wage differential claim, Robert helped establish speculation about what "might" be earned in the future cannot serve as the basis for wage loss. As a result, the employer's liability was significantly limited.
Vargas v. Manuel Contractors, 09 IWCC 1079: In this precedent-setting, work rule violation case, multiple witnesses testified for the parties. The petitioner returned to a locked jobsite after the day's work to retrieve a tool. He stacked two ladders and broke his arm in a fall. The Commission denied compensation.
Tallon v. INR, 08 WC 25290: Evidence from Twitter and Facebook was used at trial to defeat a 19(b)/8(a)/penalty claim.
Woods v. Macy's, 08 WC 2426: The petitioner turned, believing she heard a door open behind her and fell down an escalator, necessitating knee surgery. The Commission found a fall on an escalator is not compensable.
Sitkiewicz v. Delta Air Lines, 10 WC 46461: Issue of hip replacement successfully defended in a complex case with degenerative conditions and conflicting medical evidence.
Additional tried cases involving successful implementation of Utilization Review for the employer include: Barbour v. United (leg lengthening surgery denied), Satkevicious v. O'Hare (extensive chiropractic care denied), Garnreiter v. United (psychiatric care denied), Cantua v. United (discogram denied), Moon v. Pepsi (discogram denied), Larson v. Pepsi (low back surgery denied based on UR and IME), and Marchan v. Labor Network (multiple provider bills denied by IWCC).