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Illinois Bell Telephone v. Indus. Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied September 24, 1975.

The claimant, Otis White, fractured his ankle on August 12, 1970, while playing softball in the Illinois Bell Telephone Men's Softball League. An arbitrator of the Industrial Commission found that he sustained injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment and entered an award for temporary total incapacity, 50% permanent loss of the use of his left foot and medical expenses under the Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, par. 138.8(a), (b), (e)). On review the Commission, after hearing additional testimony, confirmed the award. However, on certiorari the circuit court of Cook County reversed the award, holding that the claimant's injury did not arise out of and in the course of his employment. The claimant has appealed here under Rule 302(a) (50 Ill.2d R. 302(a)), contending that the circuit court's action was contrary to law and against the manifest weight of the evidence.

There is no dispute as to the nature and extend of the claimant's injuries.

In the summer of 1970 the respondent, Illinois Bell Telephone Company (Illinois Bell), as had been its practice for many years, sponsored an intracompany men's league. The league was composed of 38 teams divided into north, south and central divisions. All players, under a league bylaw, were required to be employees of Illinois Bell, or its "long lines," i.e., employees of American Telephone & Telegraph Co. Illinois Bell paid the costs of operating the league, which included the cost of uniforms, softballs, bats, bases and umpire fees. The league schedule and notices of coming games were posted on company bulletin boards. The company newspaper of Illinois Bell published stories of games, dates of the league meetings and carried photographs of the champion team and its trophies. All games were played in public parks.

The league was directed by an executive committee of employees composed of a league president, vice-president, secretary-treasurer and three divisional presidents. The executive committee members were elected to their posts by the team managers, who in turn were elected by their team members. The executive committee and the team managers met before each season to draft bylaws and draw the season's schedule.

Otis White testified before the arbitrator that he had worked as a telephone installation and repair man for Illinois Bell at its South Chicago office for about a year prior to his injury. His regular workday began at 8 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., but he said he typically worked overtime 2 1/2 hours on four or five evenings a week. He testified he tried to work overtime as often as he could during the week so as to avoid working overtime on weekends.

He did not join his office's softball team when the season opened in early July. After the season began, however, he said, his district superintendent, Walter Krick, asked him to join the team. The claimant testified he told him he did not have the time to play. After that conversation Krick spoke to him weekly about the team and a number of times asked him to join. The claimant said that notices were posted on the office bulletin boards telling of the need for players. He said he joined the team in late July after learning players were acutely needed because some players had left the team. When he joined the team he was given a full uniform with his office's name, South Chicago, printed on the shirt.

On August 12, 1970, the claimant fractured his left ankle while sliding into home plate during a league game with the Illinois Bell Telephone Training Center. He testified that although 100 to 250 spectators usually turned out to watch a game only 50 to 75 spectators watched the game that night. Spectators were usually fellow employees or friends of fellow employees.

The claimant said every time he played he sacrificed overtime work for which he would have been paid 1 1/2 times the normal hourly rate. He testified he would play with the team when there were not enough players to field a team. On Wednesday nights when the team needed him he would work an hour of overtime before going to play at 6:30 p.m. He did not receive compensation for playing in the games, he said.

William Murphy, a supervisory employee of Illinois Bell and the president of the Illinois Bell Men's Softball League, testified for the respondent. The league, he said, makes its own rules and bylaws free from company interference. He said that one of the league's rules requires each team to pay a $30 entry fee which was used to defray part of the cost of the league banquet. On cross-examination he testified that Illinois Bell's management insisted that no team use the company's name but he did say that one team had used the name Bell-Tell. He acknowledged that Illinois Bell had paid for the championship trophies and for the banquet in 1970. The witness said that the afternoon meetings, when schedules were made up and the bylaws drafted, took place on company property and were held on company time.

On review before the Industrial Commission, further evidence was offered in behalf of the respondent.

Walter Krick testified he was superintendent in charge of the South Chicago office in the summer of 1970. He said that he never asked Otis White to join the softball team. He admitted having discussed the team with many of the employees but denied ever asking any of them to join it. He said he had attended a few of the games and said that there has been only a handful of spectators.

The softball team presented a problem for Illinois Bell, he said, because there were more telephones to be installed in the summer months than in any other period of the year. On league game nights, he said, he often could not get sufficient employees to work overtime and install phones. Krick testified that his inability to get employees to work overtime on Wednesday evenings reduced the number of phone installations and led to criticism of him by his ...

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