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Excelsior Leather Washer v. Indus. Com.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. JOHN C. LAYNG, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal by Excelsior Leather Washer Company (hereinafter Excelsior) from a judgment of the circuit court of Winnebago County. The court affirmed an award granted by the Industrial Commission to claimant, Esther Kleine, for an injury sustained on August 5, 1967, while she was employed at Excelsior. Excelsior primarily maintains that the Commission's decision that claimant's injury was causally related to her employment was improper.

Claimant, who was 53 years of age on the date of the incident, was the only witness to testify before the arbitrator (October, 1969). She stated that she had been a diabetic for about 30 years prior to the time she was hired by Excelsior (1966) and that her employer was aware of her condition.

On the day preceding the incident, she said that she was given a large, tightly packed bag containing strips of twisted leather which were to be cut by a machine. This bag was later described as weighing about 100 pounds. She was unable to remove the strips from the bag and so informed her supervisor, Ronald Miller. He told her to try and that he would empty the bag the following morning if she was unable to do so.

On that day Miller placed the bag on a table near claimant but he did not empty it. Claimant testified that she again requested Miller's assistance in emptying the bag but he told her to continue her efforts. She then stood on two smaller bags of leather and began to shake the large bag in order to loosen the contents. At this time she experienced a "snap" in her back and she claimed that she felt a severe pain in the left part of her head and numbness in her hands. She also said that her left eye became milky and that she lost her vision in that eye. She stated that she immediately reported the incident to Miller as she had been instructed to do. Upon further inquiry as to what she noticed at the time of the incident in question claimant responded that "it upset me so much at the time I didn't notice anything and no pain for about two weeks and the pain just got terrific in temple and whole half top of the eye."

Claimant continued her employment after the incident although she said that the left part of her head "has never quit hurting." During this time she wore an eye patch or covered her left eye with her hand when she experienced intense pain. On June 5, 1968, claimant was discharged on an unrelated matter and thereafter filed her claim for compensation.

Prior to the incident in question, claimant stated that her sight in both eyes was adequate although her eyes became tired and her vision blurred. At the time of the hearing, she could only discern light in her left eye at certain times.

The record reveals that on August 24, 1967, claimant experienced difficulty with her vision. That day she visited Dr. Roland Pritikin, an ophthalmologist, whose name she found listed "on the bulletin board." In November, 1967, she went to Dr. Robert Norris at Excelsior's request after complaining of her condition.

On cross-examination Excelsior produced a two-page handwritten letter dated October 19, 1967, and addressed to Dr. Pritikin. Claimant initially said that the handwriting "partially resembled" her own. She then denied writing the letter but subsequently admitted the authenticity of her signature although she claimed that she did not write the first page. This letter was admitted into evidence before the Commission without objection and reads as follows:

"Dear Sir:

I received a letter from you, today, in regard to my eye injury. My injury, as you said at the time, was not caused by diebetis [sic] but by strain when I dumped a bag of leather. I would like a statement in which you do not mention the diebetis [sic] — that only will tend to complicate matters. I completely lost the vision in that eye, and after other treatments, my vision was restored, but fades when the vertibrae [sic] slip. Please send me a statement stating what you told me that the blood vessels ruptured, due to strain, at work. And that I paid you $15.00 for your service. That is all. The Co. knows [page 2] I'm diebetic [sic].

This is not a lie, and your statement will coincide with that of the other Drs.

Please forward desired statement by return mail.

Respectfully yours Esther Kleine 1319 ...

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