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General Electric Co. v. Industrial Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. Carl A. Lund, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 11, 1985.

Petitioner, Marjorie Dixon, filed an application for adjustment of her claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for injuries suffered while she was employed by respondent, General Electric Company (General Electric). An arbitrator awarded benefits for temporary total disability, finding that Dixon's condition had not yet reached permanency. The Industrial Commission set aside the arbitrator's award and substituted in its stead, inter alia, an award for a more lengthy period of temporary total disability and an award for the permanent and complete loss of the use of each arm to the extent of 25%. The Industrial Commission also found an injury to the cervical area of Dixon's spine. On review, the circuit court of Vermilion County remanded the cause to the Industrial Commission with instructions to make more specific findings of fact. In a second decision, the Industrial Commission again rendered an award for permanent and total loss of each arm to the extent of 25%. The circuit court of Vermilion County set aside the award for permanent and total loss of the use of each arm and remanded the cause for consideration as to what award, if any, should be made with respect to the injury to the cervical area of the spine. On remand, the Industrial Commission, inter alia, found Dixon to be permanently partially disabled to the extent of 12%. The circuit court of Vermilion County confirmed the decision of the Commission. From this decision General Electric appeals and Dixon has perfected a cross-appeal.

Dixon's application for adjustment of her claim, filed February 19, 1976, states that the "accident" occurred on or about July 31, 1975. Her employment was described therein as lifting and pulling racks, and the injury is described as injury of the left upper extremity and shoulders.

Dixon was the sole witness at the June 14, 1977, hearing before the arbitrator. She testified as follows: She had worked for General Electric for 10 years as of October of 1975. She ordinarily worked on second shift. At the time of the injury, she was on the first shift, doing whatever job needed to be done on a given day, so that her duties varied. On July 31, 1975, a Thursday, she was "racking" as the replacement of an absent employee. Asked what "racking" involved, Dixon replied: "Lifting, we had a rack that holds seven units on a rack. And I had to rack about 46 to 4800 a day." Each unit weighed approximately 15 pounds. On that day she began "giving out" and dropped some units to the floor. She asked for help, but none was available. She experienced pain while working Friday, the next day. She took Excedrin, which she "always" carried in case of headache. Her testimony is unclear as to whether she felt pain on Thursday. On Saturday, she was awakened by pain in her right hip, and "everything went numb on me." She telephoned the plant doctor and arranged to be seen by him on Monday.

Asked to explain what job she was doing when injured, Dixon testified that she was "pushing on Friday, and this happened Saturday morning, but it come on me as a result from both lifting and pushing as I put down there [in the statement of claim for benefits]. * * * I was racking Thursday, when she was off. And he put me to work in her place, and Friday I was pushing the units after doing all that heavy lifting, so Saturday morning I had a reaction, early Saturday morning."

The plant doctor treated Dixon for one week, then suggested that she see her family doctor. Meanwhile, she was returned to second shift at work, where she did jobs she could do while seated. She testified that she missed no work time during the next two weeks but that she could not perform her work well. According to Dixon's testimony, she subsequently saw several other doctors, and medical records in evidence indicate that she was seen by other doctors. Dixon subsequently underwent surgery for both hands for what is elsewhere described as carpal tunnel syndrome, the left hand in March 1976, the right in June 1976. She testified that as of the date of the hearing she continued to experience discomfort involving her back, shoulders, left leg, and both arms and hands. She stated that she did not have these symptoms prior to July 31, 1975, and that she had not worked since August of 1975.

The record on appeal includes the following medical records, among others:

A report by radiologist W.M. McCormack, M.D., dated August 12, 1975, notes "evidence of degenerative disc disease at C5-6 with narrowing of the joint space." An April 2, 1976, hospital discharge report by Dr. Karasik notes the July 1975 injury at work, complaints of pain and numbness in the left hand and arm, and a "final" diagnosis of "C5-C6 nerve root lesion."

A record from Lakeview Memorial Hospital, dated August 12, 1975, states that Dixon's left arm was numb, that this condition had started eight to 10 days ago, that she had pain from the neck into the left arm, and that examination indicated weakness of grip in the left hand.

Following an examination on November 26, 1975, Dr. Bipin Bavishi reported as follows: While at work on July 31, 1975, Dixon was lifting and doing other jobs. She developed numbness in the left thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. She reported the incident to the nurse and the plant doctor. He treated her for seven days and referred her to Dr. Tanner. He had her neck X-rayed, then referred her to Carle Clinic. After tests, she was told that there was pressure on the nerve at the wrist. Presently, she had intermittent pain and numbness in the left thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. This also radiates to the forearm and elbow, and there is some neck discomfort.

A report of St. Francis Hospital, Evanston, dated June 1, 1976, states that Dixon was admitted complaining of pain and numbness of the right arm and hand; that she previously underwent carpal tunnel release surgery on her left hand; and that she now felt the same symptoms in her right arm and hand.

A report by Dr. Robert C. Busch following an August 24, 1976, examination after surgery to both of Dixon's hands refers to the July 31, 1975, injury as part of the history. A diagnosis of "[c]ontusion and strain injury cervical area. Left cervical tendinitis [sic]. * * * Herniated disc syndrome, cervical area. Carpal tunnel syndrome right and left hand" is noted. The report also notes: "Findings resulting from the injury." The latter remark is also included in a report following a May 5, 1977, examination; the latter report states essentially the same diagnosis and is signed by Dr. Busch and Dr. Hyman J. Hirshfield.

A letter dated December 5, 1975, from Dr. Robert D. Mussey to General Electric states that it was his "feeling that the complaints in her hand were ...

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