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Interlake Steel, Inc. v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED JANUARY 16, 1985.

INTERLAKE STEEL, INC., APPELLANT,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (JOHN ANDERSON, APPELLEE).



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

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

John Anderson filed an application for adjustment of his claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for injuries suffered while he was employed by Interlake Steel, Inc. (Interlake). An arbitrator awarded Mr. Anderson benefits for permanent partial disability and medical expenses. The Industrial Commission affirmed the award of the arbitrator, and the circuit court of Cook County confirmed the decision of the Industrial Commission.

On appeal Interlake raises two issues: (1) whether the decision of the Industrial Commission that Mr. Anderson sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment by Interlake was against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) whether the Industrial Commission committed a breach of its statutory duty under section 19(e) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 138.19(e)) to review the decision of the arbitrator.

Mr. Anderson's original application for adjustment of claim alleged that Mr. Anderson sustained injuries on or about October 15, 1979. A subsequent amended application for adjustment of claim alleges that Mr. Anderson's injury occurred on October 22, 1979.

Mr. Anderson testified before the arbitrator. He stated that he worked as a pipefitter for Interlake and that, during October 1979, his work involved installing butterfly valves which weighed between 150 and 200 pounds. Mr. Anderson related that on October 1, 8, 15 and 22, 1979, he installed butterfly valves with a co-worker. Mr. Anderson described in detail the method used to install the butterfly valves and indicated that the installation which occurred on October 1, 1979, was different from the other installations because it was necessary for him to work in a cramped position, which caused him to get a cramp in his left leg. He stated that he did not report this incident to his foreman. Mr. Anderson testified that he continued to work but felt the pain in his leg becoming progressively worse and, after installing a butterfly valve on October 22, 1979, felt the pain extend up into the lower part of his back.

Mr. Anderson testified that he first went to Interlake's nurse on October 23, 1979, and complained about the pain in his leg and his back. He told the nurse, "I think I strained myself when I was installing these butterfly valves." The nurse gave Mr. Anderson some pain pills and suggested that he visit the company doctor. Mr. Anderson went to see Interlake's doctor, Dr. Charles F. Kramer, on October 25, 1979. Dr. Kramer recommended that Mr. Anderson see his family physician. A few days later, Mr. Anderson went to see a chiropractor at Achilly Chiropractic Clinic, Ltd., and was treated for a period of six weeks.

Mr. Anderson was next treated by Dr. Howard Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, on December 7, 1979. Dr. Schneider's initial diagnosis, as indicated by a letter he sent to Interlake's insurance department, was that Mr. Anderson suffered from a "ruptured pulposus, lower lumbar area." Dr. Schneider placed Mr. Anderson in the hospital for 10 days. Sometime later, on January 13, 1980, Mr. Anderson was again hospitalized for a myelogram. After reviewing Mr. Anderson's myelogram, Dr. Schneider informed Interlake that "I do feel that [Mr. Anderson] has a ruptured lumbar disc at the L-4 level left and have recommended surgery, laminectomy with decompression of the nerve root." Mr. Anderson testified that he subsequently went to see two other doctors concerning his back condition.

Robert Leonard Keyl, a co-worker of Mr. Anderson who had helped Mr. Anderson install butterfly valves in October 1979, testified that Mr. Anderson had complained of pain in his legs during the installation of the butterfly valves.

David A. Fisher, Mr. Anderson's foreman, testified for Interlake. Mr. Fisher said that sometime around October 22, 1979, Mr. Anderson informed him that his leg was bothering him. According to Mr. Fisher, Mr. Anderson said he did not know what was wrong with his leg but indicated that his leg was sore. Mr. Fisher said that he referred Mr. Anderson to Interlake's first-aid department. Mr. Fisher testified that a couple of days later Mr. Anderson again requested to see the company nurse or doctor because his leg was sore. Again, Mr. Fisher sent Mr. Anderson to the first-aid department. Mr. Fisher testified that about October 28, 1979, Mr. Anderson again requested to see the company doctor and indicated for the first time that he thought he had been injured while performing a job. Mr. Fisher further testified that Mr. Anderson returned to work at Interlake in April 1980 and has worked overtime since then.

Dr. Kramer, Interlake's doctor, also gave testimony before the arbitrator on behalf of Interlake. Dr. Kramer stated that Mr. Anderson had been treated for a back strain in March 1966 and was treated for lumbar myalgia in late December 1972. Dr. Kramer said that Mr. Anderson came to see him on October 23, 1979, and stated that about a month earlier he had performed a job in a cramped position and noticed pain in his left leg. Dr. Kramer said he again saw Mr. Anderson on October 25, 1979, and recommended to Mr. Anderson that he see his personal physician. Mr. Anderson next visited Interlake's first-aid department on March 26, 1980, when he returned to work. According to Dr. Kramer, he examined Mr. Anderson at that time and found no abnormalities regarding Mr. Anderson's back.

The arbitrator found that Mr. Anderson's back problem for which he was treated "commenced contemporaneously with installation of the butterfly valve on October 1, 1979, and became progressively more severe as he continued to work through the month of October, 1979." The arbitrator awarded Mr. Anderson compensation from October 22, 1979. The Industrial Commission affirmed the arbitrator's decision in a decision which read, in part, as follows:

"DECISION AND OPINION ON REVIEW

* * * The Commission has considered the entire record and Oral Arguments held before a majority of the ...


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