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Edwards v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, the Hon. Alvin G. Maeys, Judge, presiding.


The claimant, Donald Edwards, sought workmen's compensation for a back injury that he allegedly suffered on October 18, 1976, while employed by the respondent, Royal Packing Company. The arbitrator found that claimant is permanently, partially disabled to the extent of 2% of the man as a whole. On an appeal by claimant to the Industrial Commission, the Commission modified the decision of the arbitrator and held that claimant is not entitled to any compensation because he "failed to prove he sustained any permanent disability as a result of the accident of October 18, 1976 * * *."

Claimant appealed the Commission's decision to the circuit court of St. Clair County and the court found that the Commission's decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Claimant then brought a direct appeal to this court (87 Ill.2d R. 302(a)) alleging that the Commission's decision is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and is based solely upon improperly admitted evidence. We affirm the decision of the circuit court.

Three witnesses testified at the arbitration hearing on June 24, 1980: the claimant and two of respondent's employees. Two other witnesses, both physicians, testified by way of deposition.

The claimant testified that on October 18, 1976, he was injured while working as a "beef lugger" in respondent's plant. The injury occurred when he slipped and fell on a piece of fat as he was carrying a side of beef onto a truck. His tailbone hit the ground, and he injured his lower back.

The claimant testified that he promptly notified his supervisor of the accident and that he was sent to the company physician, Dr. Max Goldenberg, who gave him some pills and told him that he could go back to work. The claimant also testified that shortly after the accident he consulted his personal physician, Dr. Dioneda, for treatment of the back injury.

The claimant admitted that after taking several days off he came back to work for the respondent. After lugging the 250-pound sides of beef for another month, the claimant quit his job. He testified that his back injury made it impossible for him to continue lugging beef. Shortly after quitting that job with the respondent, the claimant returned to work for the respondent in another capacity but was discharged after working nearly a month.

After leaving his job with respondent the claimant traveled to Texas, where he worked as a floorman on an oil rig for six months, as a construction worker for about a year, as a dump-truck driver for three months, and as a dairy-truck driver for six months. At the time of the arbitration hearing claimant was employed in a sedentary job in St. Louis, Missouri, which he had held for seven months. The claimant testified that he had sought out this "light" employment because of his back injury even though the job paid one dollar less an hour than the beef-lugging job he had with the respondent in 1976.

The claimant testified that he has had considerable lower back pain since the 1976 accident. He has difficulty bending over and carrying heavy loads. Since the 1976 accident he has been unable to lift more than 100 pounds without pain, whereas before the accident he could lift as much as 400 pounds.

The claimant, however, admitted that on October 11, 1979, he was involved in a highway accident while working as a dairy-truck driver in Texas. In this accident claimant's head went through the windshield of the truck. His injuries required that he be hospitalized for three days. The claimant maintains that this accident worsened the back injury that he had sustained in the 1976 accident at respondent's plant. He claims that the pain he feels while bending or lifting became more acute after the Texas highway accident.

The claimant's foreman at respondent's plant, George Dietrich, testified that on October 19, 1976, claimant reported that he had hemorrhoids from lifting boxes, but did not mention anything about a fall while carrying a side of beef. On October 20, 1976, Mr. Dietrich filled out and signed a "Report of Employee Accident" form relating that claimant was injured while "loading boxes for freezer" and that the claimant "said he had hemorrhoid trouble picking up 100 lb. boxes." Mr. Dietrich testified that the claimant never mentioned anything to him about a back injury and that if the claimant had complained of such an injury on or about October 18, 1976, it would have appeared in the accident report.

The foreman also challenged the claimant's version of why he left his beef-lugging job with the respondent. Mr. Dietrich testified that the claimant quit his job after repeatedly being told that governmental regulations required that he wear hair protection of some kind while lugging the raw beef:

"Anytime you're lugging beef your hair had to be covered, and several times [a government inspector] had got on me about [claimant] lugging beef without a hair net on or something on his hair to keep it off the beef, so this morning why he got on me again and I told [claimant] several times, different times about lugging with something on his head. And, I told [claimant] on the next load he'd have to have something or else I'd have to have him quit loading so I walked back out and [claimant] didn't have anything on his head and I said * * * I told you to get something on your head. And, * * * he got excited and threw his helmet down, took his coat off and a few choice words, whatever they were, and he walked out and that's the way he walked out."

The respondent's vice-president for personnel and labor relations, Richard Chicholick, testified that the company's time records show that on October 18, 1976, a Monday, the claimant worked a full day. The records also show that the claimant left work a few hours early on October 19, 1976, and that he took off the 20th and 21st, returning to work full time on the 22nd. After the week of the alleged accident the claimant ...

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