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Mid Central Tool Co. v. Ind. Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Livingston County, the Hon. William T. Caisely, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 1, 1978.

In proceedings under the provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) filed by William J. Triplett, claimant, for injuries sustained on December 15, 1973, the arbitrator found that claimant failed to prove that he sustained an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of his employment with Mid Central Tool Company, respondent. The Commission, on review, heard additional testimony, reversed the arbitrator and entered an award for permanent total disability. The circuit court of Livingston County confirmed the Commission's decision. Mid Central appealed under Rule 302(a) (58 Ill.2d R. 302(a)).

On appeal the respondent takes the position that the accident neither arose out of nor in the course of the employment and that the disabling condition was neither caused nor aggravated by the accident.

Respondent is a small manufacturing company with about 35 employees. On Saturday evening, December 15, 1973, a Christmas party was held for its employees at the American Legion Hall in Forrest, Illinois. All arrangements were made by Marie Gaston, a payroll supervisor who worked under the direction of Mrs. Frank Griner, secretary-treasurer of the company and wife of its president. Frank Griner, the president, was notified several months in advance that the Legion Hall had been selected for the party. He arranged to pay for the use of the facility, the food and the drink. All the food and drink was furnished by the company. None of the employees had to pay for the refreshments. Triplett testified that the employees at Mid Central did not have an employees' association of any kind and that, to his knowledge, none of the employees were consulted in regard to making any of the arrangements. He did not see or hear of any of the employees participating in the planning of the party. The employees were informed of the Christmas party by the company approximately three to four weeks in advance. A notice was posted on a bulletin board attached to a trailer office in the plant which Frank Griner occupied. Petitioner testified that the notice specified the date, time and place, and urged everybody to attend. Each employee was allowed to bring either a "wife, husband or guest." The notice was part of a long sheet of paper on which there were lines for the employees who were going to attend to so signify by signing their names and to indicate whether they were coming alone or with someone else. Several weeks before the party, a second notice was given to each of the employees reminding them to attend the party. A shipping clerk or stock chaser brought a paper around to be signed by each employee who was going to attend. Those who did not sign the paper when it was on the bulletin board signed it when the stock chaser brought it around. Further, when the employees received their pay envelopes there was, attached to the paycheck, another notice. It stated as follows:

"Mid-Central — Christmas Party — Saturday, 15 December — Legion Hall — 7 p.m. For all employees and their wife, husband or guest. Please sign up on the list on the bulletin board in the shop. Hope we can see you there! Get your name on the list by 30 November. Management."

Frank Griner, Jr., son of the president and foreman in the plant, passed out the paychecks with the Christmas party notice attached.

Triplett testified further that a few days before the Christmas party he spoke to Frank Griner, the president, William Chapman, the general foreman, and Les Baker, the foreman of the punch presses. Baker wanted to know if Triplett was going to attend and if he was going to bring his wife. Baker said there was an opening for a punch press operator and they wanted to talk to Mrs. Triplett to see if she would come to work. Frank Griner also wanted to know if Triplett was going to bring his wife to the party and asked whether she might be coming to work for the company. Frank Griner, the president, testified, on the other hand, that he had nothing to do with the Christmas party despite the fact that he admitted he was informed of it two months in advance, gave his consent, paid for the facilities, the food and drink, and attended the party. He was asked why he paid for the Christmas parties, if he was against them. His reply was that, "Well, you no doubt know from Mr. Triplett's salary, that the salaries paid by the company aren't the greatest yet the people want something for Christmas. So out of Mid Central's generosity we picked up the tab." The arbitrator then asked him why he wrote out a company check for the party. Mr. Griner answered, "As I said, it was goodwill. The employees want to get together. I knew they really couldn't afford it, so I offered to pay for it." Inasmuch as Griner admitted that one of the purposes of a Christmas party was to create employee goodwill, he was asked whether this was what he had in mind for the 1973 Christmas party. He admitted that it was, that he knew Mid Central was going to pay the expenses for the party, and that he, as president of Mid Central, makes the decisions for the corporation and was speaking for it as its president.

Triplett testified that on Saturday, December 15, he stopped working at approximately noon, and went home. That evening, about 7 p.m., he and his wife left home for the party. Triplett drove his car to the Legion Hall and arrived at 7:05 p.m. When he arrived there, he saw William Chapman and Frank Griner. He remained at the party for approximately one and a half to two hours. Food, consisting of sandwiches and potato salad, were served. Whiskey, beer and soft drinks were also served. No charge was made to the employees for the food or drinks.

Triplett stated he talked to Frank Griner, William Chapman and Les Baker. Griner, Triplett and his wife were standing at the bar. After a little conversation, Griner asked Mrs. Triplett if she was going to go to work for him. She told him that she had never run a punch press. He said it did not matter because Les Baker would show her what to do.

Triplett and his wife left the party at about 9 p.m. Their car was parked across the street from the Legion Hall. There had been sleet and freezing rain that day, and the streets were icy. Mr. and Mrs. Triplett left the hall and walked across the street to the car. As Triplett started to open the door for his wife to get in, his feet slid out from under him and he fell down and hit the back of his head on the icy pavement. The impact knocked him unconscious. When he woke up, he was sitting in the back of his car with his wife. Another employee was driving him home. Les Baker and William Chapman followed in another car, helped him into the house, and put him into a chair near the doorway.

As a result of the fall, Triplett suffered injury. He saw Dr. T.L. Minogue, the company doctor, the next day, who sent him to the Fairbury Hospital for X rays. They revealed a fracture of the skull. Triplett said he was suffering from headaches, dizziness, nausea and general weakness, and was referred to St. Francis Hospital in Peoria under the care of Dr. Lawrence B. Holden. He spent most of the days from December 18 to December 26, 1973, in the hospital getting bed rest. During that time he noticed that whenever he got out of bed he experienced dizziness and was continually veering to the right when trying to walk.

After Triplett left the hospital, he attempted to work, but when he did so, he became dizzy, had headaches, felt generally weak, and would veer always to his right side when walking. If he worked 4 hours, he said it was just like being on his feet for 10 or 12 hours. As a result, he stopped working after two weeks.

Triplett then saw Dr. Dorothy H. Schultz of Champaign on January 30, 1974. After giving him a neurological examination, in which she checked his heart, blood pressure, reflexes, hearing and sight, Dr. Schultz had Triplett admitted to Mercy Hospital. He stayed there two weeks. A series of tests was made on him, including an EKG, angiogram, brain scan, and neuroencephalogram. Other tests involved sticking needles into his throat and spine and pumping fluid and air into his head. After the tests were completed, he was taken to surgery and a valve or pump was inserted into his head. The valve was connected to one tube which went into the right side of his head, and the other end was placed in his abdomen. The purpose of the pump was to relieve fluid pressure in his head. The diagnosis ...

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