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Horath v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of DeWitt County, the Hon. Art Powers, Jr., Judge, presiding.


This appeal is from a judgment of the circuit court of De Witt County confirming findings of the Industrial Commission. In its decision, the Commission affirmed an arbitrator's finding that there was no causal connection between the complaints of Leon Horath, the claimant, of injuries to his cervical spine, left shoulder and neck, and an accident which occurred at work on June 25, 1979. The claimant appealed directly to this court under Rule 302(a)(2) (73 Ill.2d R. 302(a)(2)).

The claimant filed an application for adjustment of claim on August 10, 1979. In the application, he stated that he was 42 years of age, had been injured in an accident that occurred in the course of his employment on June 25, 1979, and as a result was totally disabled.

At the arbitrator's hearing, Horath testified that he was employed as a laborer at Baldwin & Associates (Baldwin) on June 25, 1979. Shortly before midnight on June 25 he was "stripping forms" on the top of a company building. In so doing, he and other workers were holding ropes that were attached to a steel form. The claimant and other workers held the ropes in order to stabilize the forms as they were lowered by a crane.

As the claimant was holding a rope that was positioned across his back, wind blew the form to which the rope was attached and caused the form to rotate. When the wind blew the form, the rope pulled him forward onto a stack of steel bars.

When he got up, he noticed pain in his back, neck, left arm and left leg. He visited the company nurse, who gave him aspirin. The claimant was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Bloomington the next day. At St. Joseph's he was treated by Dr. John Wright and Dr. O. Deneen. He was kept in traction for the next seven or eight days, and was discharged on July 7, 1979. The pain persisted during the hospitalization.

On August 6, 1979, he consulted Dr. J.M. Sethi for a testicular problem. At that time, the claimant complained of pain in his neck and left side of his body. He had pain in the left shoulder. Dr. Sethi treated the claimant but apparently not for the pain in the neck and shoulder. He saw Dr. Sethi once more on August 31, 1979.

He saw Dr. M.L. Mehra on September 28, 1979, and made the same complaints as to pain. Dr. Mehra prescribed a collar. He consulted Dr. Mehra again, and was admitted to St. John's Hospital in Springfield on January 9, 1980. On January 10, Dr. Robert Hayner surgically removed a cervical disc.

At the time of the hearing, the claimant was still under Dr. Mehra's care. He testified that no further surgery was scheduled and that he could perform ordinary household chores. He was still experiencing pain, however, in his left leg, left arm, spine and neck, though the pain was not as severe as he experienced after the accident. He complained, too, of numbness in his left arm and hand. He still was using a neck brace, but not a back brace.

The claimant denied telling a contrary version of the accident and his injuries to Baldwin's nurse, Dr. Hayner (who operated on him) or the doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital, where he was first treated after the accident. He also denied reinjuring himself between June 25, 1979 and August 6, 1979, when he first visited Dr. Sethi.

In a report dated November 12, 1980, Dr. Mehra stated that the claimant was under his care for a cervical disc injury resulting from the accident. Because of that injury, the doctor stated, the claimant remained totally disabled.

According to other physicians' reports admitted at the hearing, however, the claimant did give different versions of his accident. The report of Dr. Deneen, who treated the claimant at St. Joseph's Hospital after the accident, stated that "the [claimant] stated that on 6/25 he was lifting some heavy lumbar [sic] and felt something stab in his back." According to the report of Dr. Wright, who was called in at St. Joseph's for an orthopedic consultation, "[the claimant] said he got hurt on June 25th, at the Baldwin Associates, Clinton, Illinois. * * * He was doing his usual work, carrying wood forms and stacking them. On one instance, he turned and twisted, causing pain. He said he was unable to finish his day, and the folks had to help him on home." According to the report of an examination by Dr. William S. Coxe, and the office notes of Dr. Sethi, neither of whom examined the claimant before August 6, 1979, the patient described his accident to them as he did at the hearing.

Too, in the medical evidence there is no indication of any complaints of pain in the neck or left arm before the August 6, 1979, visit to Dr. Sethi. The records at St. Joseph's, as in fact did the claimant's application for adjustment of claim, show complaints only of leg and low back pain, and Dr. Wright's diagnosis was "Acute lumbosacral strain associated with traumatic sciatic neuritis of the left leg." The radiological consultation report by Dr. Raymond W. Yin at St. Joseph's stated: "Routine views of the lumbosacral spine show normal findings. There is normal intervertebral disk spacing. Bone density is normal and the apophyscal joints show no deformity." A radiological report of January 9, 1980, stated that there were degenerative changes in the lower cervical spine.

In the report of Dr. Coxe, dated July 5, 1980, the doctor stated that he was unable to explain the claimant's complaints as to his lower back on the basis of his examination and review of myelograms made during the preceding six months. Dr. Coxe did state that in the accident as described by the claimant "the rope might have borne down on the left supraclavicular region and the patient might have sustained some stretch of his plexus which would produce a rather more diffuse tingling and numbness in ...

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