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Lukasik v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied July 2, 1984.

Claimant, Albert Lukasik, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County which confirmed the award of the Industrial Commission. The Commission had set aside an arbitrator's award of temporary total disability and medical expenses for a certain period of time following the accident. Claimant contends that he was totally disabled after the date fixed by the Commission and that the subsequent medical care was necessary.

On December 20, 1978, the 20-year-old claimant, working as a dock man, was struck in the back by a forklift and a cart while loading freight for his employer, Associated Truck Lines, Inc.

Following the accident, the claimant was taken to MacNeal Hospital where X rays revealed no evidence of any fracture or abnormality. Medication for pain was prescribed and claimant returned home and remained in bed for the next three days, noticing pain in his upper and lower back.

Claimant was treated by the employer's doctors from December 22, 1978, to January 16, 1979. He continued to complain of back discomfort and muscle spasms, and was referred to Dr. W. Patrick Smyth, who examined claimant on January 23, 1979. Dr. Smyth reported that claimant had received a "myofascial injury" and had a "significant functional overlay." A physical therapy regimen was advised and claimant was told that no further care was required and that "he could return to work at any time he felt able without any restriction."

In early February 1979, claimant sought further treatment from his family physician, Dr. Moltier, who referred him to Dr. Thomas Colmey, an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Colmey, on examination, diagnosed the injury to be a "contusion/sprain of the thoracolumbar spine," prescribed a muscle relaxant, placed claimant on physical therapy treatments of heat, massage, ultrasound and nerve stimulation, advised him to wear a back corset, and concluded claimant was unable to engage in his usual occupation at that time. On March 19, 1979, Dr. Colmey reexamined claimant and concluded that the "clinical picture at this time is becoming one of subjective complaints without objective findings." Dr. Colmey then requested a second opinion from Dr. Marshall Matz and concluded that the patient would be "considered disabled pending receipt of this consultation. The patient is eligible for light work if such is available to him."

Dr. Matz, a neurosurgeon, examined claimant on April 4, 1979, and found no objective abnormalities or neurologic derangement. In his opinion, claimant could return to work following his release by Dr. Colmey. Claimant testified that Dr. Matz released him to return to work.

Dr. Colmey reexamined claimant on April 23, 1979, and again found no objective abnormalities to substantiate claimant's subjective complaints, but recommended a consultation from a pain clinic, if claimant's employer was agreeable. Dr. Colmey concluded that claimant remained eligible for light work, if available. It was at this point that the employer cut off temporary disability.

Claimant testified that he never went to the pain clinic. He also did not return to college, where he had been a student at various times between 1976 and 1978. He stated that in May of 1979, he was told by an unidentified agent of the employer that it would not pay for any further medical treatments. Nevertheless, claimant returned to his family doctor, Dr. Moltier, in May and July of 1979, and continued taking medication four times a day as prescribed by Drs. Moltier and Colmey.

On October 23, 1979, claimant went to the emergency room of Northwest Community Hospital at his own direction, complaining of pain in his upper and lower back radiating to his buttocks and legs. He was given medication and referred to Dr. Bruce Ketel, a neurologist, who admitted him to Lutheran General Hospital on November 1, 1979. An initial physical examination revealed spasm in the lumbrosacral paraspinal muscles, a limited range of motion, and normal reflexes. Claimant was treated with bed rest, lower back traction, physical therapy, medication, and epidural lumbar injections. An electromyograph (EMG) revealed no abnormalities.

At Dr. Ketel's request, Dr. Per Freitag, an orthopedic surgeon, examined claimant on November 5, 1979, and diagnosed his injury as "muscle spasm secondary to back injury." A myelogram performed on November 16 was interpreted by Dr. Freitag as showing a herniated nucleus pulposus at the L5-S1 level with blunting of the nerve roots.

Dr. Sam Mulopulos, a radiologist at the hospital, found an essentially normal thoracic and lumbar myelogram with questionable defect of the root sheath at the fifth lumbar interspace.

Dr. Ketel's discharge diagnosis of claimant included a "herniated nucleus pulposus at L5-S1 interspace with root involvement" and "thoracic and lumbrosacral muscle spasm and severe pain secondary to back injury." Upon his November 20, 1979, discharge from the hospital, claimant was instructed to continue with physical ...

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