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Interlake, Inc. v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 30, 1981.

INTERLAKE, INC., APPELLANT,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (MICHAEL J. CASSIDY, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In this worker's compensation case, the arbitrator found that plaintiff, Michael Cassidy, sustained accidental injuries that arose out of and in the course of his employment on April 29, 1977, and that the injuries caused plaintiff's complete disability rendering him "wholly and permanently incapable of work." He awarded plaintiff $231.42 per week for life and $6,973.38 for necessary medical and hospital expenses. The Industrial Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The circuit court of Cook County confirmed the Commission's decision in all respects except for a minor reduction of the medical expense award.

Defendant, Interlake, Inc., contends that plaintiff failed to establish (1) that the injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment, and (2) that he is wholly and permanently incapable of work, thereby rendering the Commission's findings contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

Plaintiff, 62 years old, was a supervisor for defendant, Interlake, Inc. Plaintiff's employment entailed supervising carpenters, millwrights, ironworkers and engineers in the installation of storage racks. On April 29, 1977, plaintiff was assigned to a job in Brea, California, to erect pallet racks. He was advised by an ironworker's foreman that they were having difficulty separating frames which weighed between 200 and 250 pounds each. Plaintiff inserted a wood "two-by-four" between the frames and pushed down on it "with all his strength and weight." The "two-by-four" broke and struck him on the right side of his chest.

Plaintiff testified that he immediately felt a pain across his chest, under his right arm and into the palm of his hand. He also testified that his knees hit the floor, that he became nauseous, felt a pain in the sternal area of his chest and that he began to perspire very heavily. He then sat down for a period of 15 minutes. Plaintiff then handed out checks to his workers, during which time, he testified, he "felt very bad" but didn't complain to the crew. At 3 p.m., he reported the incident to his supervisor.

Plaintiff testified that while he drove from the jobsite to his motel he felt nauseous and was perspiring very heavily. When he reached his room, he experienced pain across his chest going from the left side to under his right armpit. During the remainder of that day and the next two days, Saturday and Sunday, plaintiff experienced nausea and chest pain. He took several showers, which seemed to temporarily ease the pain. He engaged in very little physical activity. On Sunday, May 1, at about 11 p.m. while doing paperwork, plaintiff suddenly experienced intense pain across his chest and down into his arm and hand, which then became numb. A doctor was called and plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

The hospital records state that plaintiff, "approximately 36 hours prior to his admission, * * * began to experience severe pain located in the right axillary region and radiating down the right arm." An electrocardiogram performed upon plaintiff the evening of his admission disclosed an anterolateral wall myocardial infarction of unknown age.

Defendant argues that the evidence fails to prove a causal relationship between the work incident on April 29, 1977, and the myocardial infarction. This court has held that an accidental injury arises out of and in the course of employment under section 2 of the Workmen's Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 48, par. 138.2) if some act or phase of the employment was a causative factor in the ensuing injury. Plaintiff need not prove that it was the sole causative factor, but only that it was a causative factor in the resulting injury. (Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 59, 66; Republic Steel Corp. v. Industrial Com. (1962), 26 Ill.2d 32, 45.) In numerous cases, the court has found that employment was a causative factor when a heart attack occurred at some point after the employees had left their places of employment. E.g., McLean Trucking Co. v. Industrial Com. (1978), 72 Ill.2d 350, 357; County of Cook v. Industrial Com. (1977), 69 Ill.2d 10, 17-18; Illinois Valley Irrigation, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1977), 66 Ill.2d 234, 240; Sohio Pipe Line Co. v. Industrial Com. (1976), 63 Ill.2d 147, 152; Gould National Batteries, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1966), 34 Ill.2d 151, 157.

In Gould National Batteries, Inc., this court stated:

"It is sufficient if the evidence supports a reasonable inference that the physical stress occasioned by the employee's labor was such that his existing physical structure began to give way or gave way entirely while actually engaged in his employment. [Citations.] Merely because the ultimate manifestation of the basis for the claim * * * does not occur while the employee is actually engaged in the performance of his duties does not require, in our judgment, judicial disturbance of the Industrial Commission's determination that an accidental injury has occurred." 34 Ill.2d 151, 156-57.

(See County of Cook v. Industrial Com. (1977), 69 Ill.2d 10, 17.) Moreover, a pre-existing heart condition does not render a compensation award contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence where the Commission, from the evidence, could have inferred that the employee's work-related incident was a causative factor. Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Industrial Com. (1980), 79 Ill.2d 59, 66; Illinois Valley Irrigation, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1977), 66 Ill.2d 234, 240.

In this case, plaintiff experienced nausea and chest pain from the time of the accident until his admission to the hospital the night of May 1. Defendant avers that plaintiff's statement in the hospital records reveals that severe chest pains began approximately 36 hours prior to admission to the hospital (placing the onset of the chest pains the day after the incident) and that the hospital records fail to refer to the April 29 incident. However, plaintiff gave detailed testimony regarding the onset and duration of his chest pains. In any event, it is the function of the Commission to determine the credibility of witnesses and to resolve disputed questions of fact. National Lock Co. v. Industrial Com. (1979), 75 Ill.2d 259, 264; Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. v. Industrial Com. (1977), 67 Ill.2d 137, 142; United States Steel Corp. v. Industrial Com. (1976), 65 Ill.2d 374, 381. Extensive medical testimony was elicited at the hearing. Defendant's expert, Dr. William Buckingham, testified in response to a hypothetical question that an incident like the April 29 one described above would be insufficient to cause the myocardial infarction. He testified that he determined from an enzyme test that the myocardial infarction occurred sometime between May 1 and May 3, 1977, subsequent to the time of the work incident. In his opinion, the infarction was caused by a pre-existing arteriosclerotic condition, and accelerated by obesity, hypertension and diabetes. He stated that the chest pain following the work incident could be symptomatic of arthritic changes.

Dr. Buckingham's opinion that the April 29 incident was not a causative factor in the myocardial infarction was disputed by two physicians testifying for plaintiff. Dr. Paul Sauers, who treated plaintiff subsequent to the myocardial infarction, testified that there was "no question in [his] mind that [plaintiff's] myocardial infarction may well have been precipitated or brought on by his exertion and/or trauma as described." Dr. Sauers also testified, in response to a hypothetical question, that his opinion would not change if the person who suffered the myocardial infarction had been under medication for diabetes and hypertension. Dr. Sauers also stated that the myocardial infarction sustained by plaintiff was probably an evolving ...


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