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Boyd v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 25, 1984.

LEONA BOYD, APPELLANT,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (FIRESTONE TIRE & RUBBER CO. ET AL., APPELLEES).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. Donald W. Morthland, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 9, 1984.

Petitioner, Leona Boyd, filed an application for adjustment of a claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for an injury to her right hand. An arbitrator found that Boyd had permanently lost 100% of the use of the hand but did not find that she was permanently totally disabled. The Industrial Commission affirmed the arbitrator's decision. The circuit court of Macon County confirmed the decision of the Commission. Boyd has perfected this appeal.

Boyd has been employed by respondent Firestone Tire & Rubber Company since 1954. On October 13, 1960, while she was working for respondent at respondent's World Bestos division in New Castle, Indiana, Boyd sustained a right-hand injury in the course of her employment, resulting in the amputation of her ring and middle fingers as well as the heads of the metacarpals of those two fingers. She was compensated for the permanent loss of the use of 55% of the hand. An eye examination on February 8, 1977, established her uncorrected vision as 20/400 right, 20/200 left, correctable to 20/20 bilaterally. Boyd was fitted with contact lenses on that date. Boyd was born in 1931 and has a 10th-grade education.

The injury complained of occurred April 18, 1977, at respondent's Decatur, Illinois, plant. According to Dr. David Barnes, who examined Boyd, she told him "she was `pulling apart stuck rubber off a skid' and suddenly had a sharp pain in the metacarpal phalangeal joint of her index finger." On June 26, 1979, Dr. James Steichen performed a fusion of the distal phalangeal joint of the small finger of the right hand.

Respondent stipulated before the Commission that petitioner has now lost 100% of the use of the right hand as a result of the 1977 injury, having lost 55% of the use of her right hand in a prior work injury. In pertinent part, the exhibits at the September 16, 1980, hearing before the arbitrator were as follows:

In a May 17, 1977, letter to Boyd, Dr. Joseph Schrodt stated, "I think it would be important that you not lift more than ten pound objects."

In a July 8, 1977, letter to respondent's medical department, Dr. Steichen stated that in his opinion it was going to be difficult for Boyd to continue working using the hand, as she had continuing pain; also, Boyd had previously had much trouble on a one-handed job due to the stress to her good hand which "places her in a very compromising position."

In an October 17, 1978, "Status Report" in checklist form, Dr. Steichen noted that Boyd was under hs care, was not totally or partially disabled, was working, had no work limitations, will need additional surgery, and that her condition was presently worsening.

In a letter dated March 6, 1980, Dr. Barnes stated his findings after an examination of Boyd and explained why the 1977 injury did not cause Boyd's present problems with her hand. Dr. Barnes stated that Boyd told him she was "anxious" to return to work; however, no opinion is stated regarding Boyd's ability to use the hand for work or otherwise. Problems with the hand noted by Dr. Barnes include pain in the index finger from cold exposure or prolonged usage, ulnar drift and subluxation of the metacarpal phalangeal joint of the index finger, possible arthritis, and destruction of the metacarpal arch, which "distorts the mechanical forces within the hand. * * * A sort of falling together, if you like."

Before the Commission, the parties stipulated, inter alia, that on or about January 28, 1981, Boyd had moved to Indiana, about 200 miles from Decatur, Illinois, that she had resided there ever since, and that her last name was now Davis as the result of a January 1981 judgment of dissolution of marriage.

Boyd testified at the hearing before the Commission on July 28, 1981, that she had not returned to work since the arbitration hearing, that she had "previously" reported to respondent ready to work, that she had submitted doctors' reports to respondent, and that she had not approached any potential employers other than respondent. According to Boyd, since the arbitration hearing she had phoned respondent seeking work and had been told to wait and that she would be called. According to Boyd, she phoned Dan Keller, who was then president of the union, late in September 1980 in an attempt to return to work; that Keller said he would inquire; and that Keller called back the same day and said that he had talked to Jack Dearth, who said that there was no work for her then. Asked whether she had spoken to a representative of respondent at that time, Boyd replied that she had tried previously, but her calls had not been returned.

Larry Harper, present president of Boyd's union, testified regarding two telephone conversations he had had with Jack Dearth the morning of the hearing before the Commission. According to Harper, he made inquiry as to why Boyd was not working, and Dearth called back and said that with a 10-pound lifting limitation on her hand, there was no work she could do for respondent.

After a continuance, the hearing before the Commission resumed on October 27, 1981. At that time, John Dearth, labor relations manager at respondent's Decatur plant, testified as follows: Respondent's records showed that Boyd was a fork truck operator from October 3, 1978, to January 18, 1979, and was a tire checker and labeler from February 23, 1979, until March of 1980, when "she was placed on sick suspension." She had not worked for respondent since. No lifting was required on the part of a forklift operator, although the job sometimes involved restacking loads. There were service and utility employees to do this for a driver who was unable. Forklift controls included steering wheel, lift lever, tilt lever, and gear shift. Some incidental lifting was also part of a labeler's job. The tires which one might be required to move each weighed between 13 and 30 pounds. The witness testified that Boyd had not contacted him regarding returning to work. He further stated that he had talked to Harper on July 28, 1981, regarding Boyd's capacity to work, and her weight-lifting restriction had been discussed. The witness had the authority to call Boyd back to work ...


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