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Jefferson Electric Co. v. Ind. Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Raymond K. Berg, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied September 30, 1976.

The claimant, Anna Mary Czaja, filed an application for compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for an injury suffered on September 11, 1967, while she was employed by the respondent, Jefferson Electric Company. The arbitrator determined that the injury to the claimant had caused complete disability, and pursuant to paragraph (f) of section 8 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 138.8(f)) awarded her the sum of $58 per week for a period of 258 weeks beginning December 13, 1967, and thereafter a pension of $1,800 for life, payable in equal monthly installments of $150 each. The claimant was also awarded some $4,600 for medical and hospital services under paragraph (a) of section 8. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 48, par. 138.8(a).) The Commission heard evidence on review and confirmed the decision of the arbitrator. On certiorari the circuit court of Cook County confirmed the order of the Commission, and the respondent has appealed pursuant to Rule 302(a).

The award for medical and hospital services is not challenged here, and it is not contested that there was an injury which arose out of and in the course of employment. The respondent challenges the award of the pension made under section 8(f), however, on the ground that there was no proof of complete disability, which is defined by that section as a disability which "renders the employee wholly and permanently incapable of work."

The claimant's job with respondent was that of a supervisor in the coil finishing department. While the claimant testified that on occasion she would carry a box of coils, her principal duties were instructional and supervisory. She had been with the company for 34 years, and at the time of her accident she was 49 years old.

The accident occurred when the claimant, intending to sit down on a chair, miscalculated its location and fell down, hitting her posterior on the concrete floor. The sudden fall caused immediate pain, both in that part of her body which struck the floor and in her spine. Subsequent examination of the claimant disclosed that her fall had caused no fracture or dislocation.

The claimant continued her work with respondent following the accident until December 13, 1967. On that day and the two days following, because of the pain in her back, she did not report for work. On December 15, the respondent was acquired by Litton Industries. As the result of the reorganization the employment of the claimant and certain other employees was terminated. No contention is made that she was discharged because of her accident.

Following her discharge, claimant testified, she continued to experience pain in her back. She consulted several physicians, both before and after her discharge, and on March 16, 1968, she entered a hospital for various tests and therapy. She was discharged on April 7, but continued to visit the hospital on an out-patient basis until September 6. From time to time, at the direction of her doctors, she has taken medication to relieve the pain. She also wears a lumbrosacral belt, and employs heating pads and a whirlpool bath for that same purpose.

At the hearing before the Commission, the respondent called as a witness a doctor who had made a physical examination of the claimant at the respondent's request. His testimony was that he found no physical injury, and in answer to a hypothetical question he expressed the opinion that the claimant could now perform the same work which she had been doing prior to the accident. The claimant did not call any of the doctors who treated her, or any other physician, to testify as to the physical aspects of her injury.

The claimant testified that following her discharge she was forced to give up certain household tasks, such as scrubbing floors, washing windows, and mowing the lawn, which required her to assume bodily positions that would produce pain in her back. But she does not predicate her claim of disability upon her pain or upon these limitations of her physical activities. The asserted basis of her claim is rather that the curtailment of her activities, and the concomitant dependence upon other people to perform or to help her with household tasks which she had formerly been able to perform by herself, drove her into a state of serious depression which, in turn, made the idea of resuming employment emotionally unacceptable.

The establishment of a causal chain extending from her fall through the restriction of her physical activities, her state of depression, and ending with an inability to return to work, rests on the testimony of a psychiatrist, Dr. James S. Rejtman, who interviewed the claimant twice, in 1971, at the request of her attorney, in preparation for the hearing on her claim. His testimony was based entirely on his observations of the claimant's demeanor during two interviews, each of one hour's duration, and on her narration to him of her personal history and present condition.

On the basis of what the claimant told him of her past life, he characterized her as having an "obsessive compulsive personality disorder" prior to her accident. He went on to testify that because of that disorder, the impairment of her motor functioning since the accident as she related it to him, had resulted in a "chronic reactive depression." In answer to a hypothetical question, the witness stated that there was a causal connection between her fall and her present psychological condition.

Dr. Rejtman's testimony acknowledged that the loss of the claimant's job was also an important factor, and that it was, indeed, "the major blow." He testified further that if she had been able to remain at her job, her emotional damage would not have been so great, and the chance for her emotional rehabilitation would have been improved. In discussing the meaning of a reactive depression, Dr. Rejtman stated: "For instance, a loss is a most typical cause of depressive reaction. A loss of a friend, a loss of a spouse, relative, a loss of financial means. * * * If that job ...

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