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Lambert v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED MARCH 20, 1952.

WILLIAM G. LAMBERT, JR., PLAINTIFF IN ERROR,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. — (CATERPILLAR TRACTOR COMPANY, DEFENDANT IN ERROR.)



WRIT OF ERROR to the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. HENRY J. INGRAM, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MAXWELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This court granted a writ of error to review the judgment of the circuit court of Peoria County denying compensation to William G. Lambert, Jr., hereinafter called petitioner, for an injury to his left eye, sustained while in the employ of the Caterpillar Tractor Company, hereinafter called respondent.

The facts are not in dispute. It was stipulated that the parties were operating under the Workmen's Compensation Act; that the relationship of employer and employee existed; that the petitioner sustained accidental injuries on February 8, 1949, which arose out of and in the course of his employment; that notice was given the employer and demand for compensation was made upon the employer within the time provided by statute. It was also stipulated that petitioner's earnings for the next preceding year were $2600 and the average weekly wage was fifty dollars; that petitioner at the time of the injury was seventeen years of age and had no children under sixteen; that first aid, medical, surgical and hospital services had been provided by respondent and that the sum of $130.93 had been paid to petitioner by respondent for the temporary total disability which resulted from the accident.

The petitioner testified before the arbitrator that on the date of the injury he was walking down an aisle in respondent's plant when he saw some other employees coming toward a switch with some cars; that he saw a four-by-four underneath the wheels of the cars; that he noticed a piece of wire which was tied at one end and when he jerked on it the end flew back and struck his eyeglasses, breaking the left lens and injuring that eye. This was all the testimony. Following this testimony, the parties entered into the following stipulation:

"It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between the petitioner and respondent, through their respective counsel, as a matter of record in this cause, that the petitioner was examined by John M. DeMoure, optometrist, on September 1, 1948, and on that date said petitioner had an uncorrected and naked vision of 20/500 in the left eye, said vision being the result of a congenital condition and not due to injury. The vision of the left eye at that time was correctable with lens to 20/20.

"It is further stipulated and agreed that on September 1, 1948, the petitioner had an uncorrected and naked vision of 20/400 in the right eye, correctable with glasses or lens to 20/20. The petitioner, William Lambert, Jr., prior to the accidental injury on February 8, 1949, had the use of both eyes with glasses or correctable lens.

"It is further stipulated and agreed that after the accidental injury on February 8, 1949, said petitioner was examined and treated by several doctors skilled in the field of ophthalmology.

"It is further stipulated and agreed that said petitioner was examined on November 22, 1949, at which time the vision in the right eye was 20/400 and correctable with glasses or lens to 20/20. Vision in the left eye was found to be 20/500 and petitioner with the left eye could distinguish hand movements without correcting glasses or lens. The left eye had a keyhole pupil with some scarring of the cornea alone. There was an aphakia with secondary membrane. Vision in the left eye could be improved and corrected with a strong cataract lens to 20/50.

"It is further stipulated and agreed that said petitioner following accidental injury on February 8, 1949, was suffering from perforation of the left eye with aphakia following lens injury. The left eye of petitioner must be considered industrially blind since the corrective lens is of such strength that petitioner would be unable without difficulty to coordinate the use of both eyes together without diplopia.

"It is further stipulated and agreed that with the right eye of petitioner entirely closed or naked without correction, the petitioner has and would have the use of the left eye alone with a corrected vision of 20/50."

The foregoing was all of the proceedings of record upon the hearing before the arbitrator. Upon this record, the arbitrator found all the jurisdictional matters in favor of the petitioner and awarded compensation for 75 per cent loss of sight of the left eye (in addition to the short period of temporary total disability which had been paid by the employer.) Upon review by the Industrial Commission, it made a finding of facts in accord with the arbitrator except that the commission found "that the claimant did not sustain any permanent disability which was caused by or related to the accidental injuries sustained on February 8, 1949." Petitioner proceeded by certiorari to the circuit court of Peoria County and that court entered its order quashing the writ, dismissing the petition and confirming the decision of the commission.

The petitioner contends that he has sustained a permanent compensable injury to his left eye; that the injury destroyed the accommodation or co-ordination of both eyes; that the injury decreased the corrected vision of the left eye; that the decision of the arbitrator was correct; that the Industrial Commission erred in finding that no permanent disability was caused by or related to the accident; and that the circuit court erred in confirming the decision of the commission.

The respondent does not deny that the accidental injury resulted in a change in the structure of petitioner's left eye; admits that the accommodation of both eyes has been affected; admits that the corrected vision of the injured eye has been decreased; but contends that all these changes are based on the functioning of petitioner's eyes with corrected vision, by the use of glasses; that so far as the uncorrected or naked vision of petitioner's left eye is concerned it is the same as it was before the injury; and that the uncorrected or naked vision of the eye, without the use of glasses, lens, or artificial appliance is the only basis for determining injury to the eye under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act; and that since the uncorrected vision of petitioner's left eye is no worse than it was before the injury, the injury is not compensable under the act.

These contentions squarely present to this court, for the first time, where the injury is to corrected vision, the question whether the corrected vision, by the use of glasses, or uncorrected, naked vision without artificial appliance of any kind, shall be the basis for determining loss of sight or ...


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