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Butler Manufacturing Co. v. Indus. Com.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. Stephen C. Mathers, Judge, presiding.


Randall Vaughn filed an application for adjustment of his claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for back injuries suffered while he was employed by Butler Manufacturing Company (Butler). An arbitrator awarded Mr. Vaughn benefits for temporary total disability, permanent partial disability and medical expenses. With one commissioner dissenting, the Industrial Commission affirmed the award of temporary total disability and medical expenses and increased the amount of permanent partial disability benefits. The circuit court of Knox County confirmed the decision of the Industrial Commission, and Butler has appealed to this court.

Butler maintains on appeal that the Industrial Commission's decision should be reversed because Mr. Vaughn failed to (1) demonstrate that he sustained a work-related accidental injury, and (2) give adequate notice of his injury to Butler.

Mr. Vaughn testified at the hearing before the arbitrator as follows: During April 1980, he was 25 years of age and was working for Butler, as he had for the previous 7 1/2 years. His employment duties included picking up parts used to construct steel buildings, placing those parts into push carts to be transported to a loading area, and placing the parts into crates. The parts varied in weight from several ounces to more than 200 pounds. On Thursday, April 24, 1980, at approximately 8 a.m., Mr. Vaughn started experiencing pain in his left hip and lower back. Although he could not remember exactly what he was doing when the pain started, Mr. Vaughn stated that the pain began while he was performing his usual employment duties.

Mr. Vaughn further testified that as the day progressed he continued to experience pain and he started to walk with a slight limp and his shoulders "were shifted." Although he informed some of his fellow employees of the pain that he was experiencing, Mr. Vaughn continued to work on Thursday and worked all day on Friday. He did not report the incident to his supervisors and did not seek medical attention at the first aid department.

On the following Monday, April 28, 1980, Mr. Vaughn sought medical care from his family physician, Dr. Prakash Khot. Handwritten notes prepared by Dr. Khot indicate that Mr. Vaughn informed him on April 28, 1980, that he had experienced back pain since Wednesday, April 23, 1980, and had "experienced pain while bending over a bathtub" in his home on Saturday, April 26, 1980. Dr. Khot admitted Mr. Vaughn to a Galesburg hospital on April 28, 1980. According to Mr. Vaughn, he had a telephone conversation with Butler's plant nurse later that day, informing her that he was hospitalized due to back pain which had started while he was at work on the previous Thursday.

Mr. Vaughn's testimony and the medical records introduced at the hearing indicate that Mr. Vaughn was treated in the hospital by Dr. Khot and by Dr. Duane Willander, an orthopedic surgeon. On May 5, 1980, Dr. Willander performed a laminectomy on Mr. Vaughn to remove a herniated disc.

Mr. Vaughn introduced medical records which had been prepared by Dr. Khot, Dr. Willander, and Dr. Stephen Weiss, an orthopedic surgeon who examined Mr. Vaughn on October 15, 1980. These records do not contain an opinion of any of the doctors as to the cause of petitioner's injuries. However, the medical records indicate that Mr. Vaughn told each of the doctors that he began experiencing back pain while at work on or about April 24, 1980.

Mr. Vaughn admitted that he was hospitalized for four days in 1978 as a result of back pain and that he strained a muscle in his back in 1979 while rinsing out his bathtub. Mr. Vaughn further testified that both he and Dr. Khot indicated on a May 12, 1980, group health insurance form that, although the symptoms first appeared about April 23, 1980, it was "unknown" whether the injuries sustained by Mr. Vaughn were work-related. A group health insurance form completed on November 7, 1980, indicated that his injuries resulted from an accident occurring at Butler's place of business and were work-related.

Donald Stokes, who worked in the same department as Mr. Vaughn, testified that on April 24, 1980, he observed Mr. Vaughn pick up a keg of bolts weighing between 200 and 250 pounds. As he lifted the keg, Mr. Vaughn "made a groaning noise" and Stokes told him that he should not try to pick up the keg. Stokes later observed Mr. Vaughn walking in a stiff manner and "slumping to one side." Stokes told his fellow employees about the incident, but he did not inform his supervisors.

Two of Mr. Vaughn's supervisors testified on behalf of Butler. Louise Wilder, an assistant foreman in Mr. Vaughn's department, testified that she had conversations with Mr. Vaughn during April 1980 concerning his job performance. During a "major conversation" on April 23, 1980, Ms. Wilder informed him that she did not approve of his habit of sitting on his push cart when he lifted parts from low shelves. Mr. Vaughn informed Ms. Wilder that he sat on the cart because of a back problem which made it difficult for him to bend down to low shelves and lift parts. Ms. Wilder also testified that Mr. Vaughn did not report the April 24, 1980, incident to her.

Warren Messmore, the foreman of Mr. Vaughn's department, testified that after Ms. Wilder informed him of Mr. Vaughn's habit of sitting on his car while lifting parts from low shelves, he discussed this habit with Mr. Vaughn on April 23, 1980. Mr. Vaughn informed him that he sat on the push cart because his doctor had recommended that he "refrain from bending, twisting, and lifting" due to a back problem. Although Mr. Vaughn and Mr. Messmore had another conversation on April 25, 1980, Mr. Vaughn did not report the April 24, 1980, incident to Mr. Messmore.

Butler also introduced certain records prepared by Dr. Willander which indicate that (1) Mr. Vaughn called Dr. Willander on June 2, 1980, and informed him that an individual in Dr. Khot's office told Mr. Vaughn to call Dr. Willander so that Dr. Willander could "declare this industrial," and (2) Dr. Willander told Mr. Vaughn that he would fill in the medical portions of any reports but that he was not the one who determined whether Mr. Vaughn's injuries resulted from an industrial accident.

• 1 Butler initially notes on appeal that although the Industrial Commission did not determine a specific time, place or occurrence which caused Mr. Vaughn's injuries, the Industrial Commission allowed Mr. Vaughn to recover because his "job requirements of lifting and bending constituted a repetitive trauma which on April 24, 1980, aggravated his pre-existing back condition." Butler argues that the Industrial Commission's decision ...

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