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General Electric Co. v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED JUNE 12, 1986.

GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, APPELLANT,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (DIANA CAMPBELL, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. Luther Dearborn, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied August 1, 1986.

Claimant, Diana Campbell, filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for wrist injuries suffered while she was employed by General Electric Company in Bloomington. An arbitrator awarded claimant temporary total incapacity benefits under section 8(b)(1) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.8(b)(1)) and permanent partial disability benefits under section 8(d)(2) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.8(d)(2)) based upon a finding that the wrist injuries sustained caused a 25% disability of claimant.

Following a hearing on review, the Industrial Commission increased the amount of temporary total incapacity benefits awarded to claimant and awarded wage-differential benefits under section 8(d)(1) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.8(d)(1)) based upon a finding that claimant was permanently incapacitated from pursuing her usual and customary line of employment. The circuit court of McLean County confirmed the Industrial Commission's decision, and General Electric has appealed to this court.

General Electric maintains on appeal that the Commission erred in awarding claimant permanent partial disability benefits based on earnings loss under section 8(d)(1). Alternatively, General Electric argues that the Commission erred in calculating the amount of such benefits. We affirm.

Claimant testified at the hearing before the arbitrator as follows. Claimant, who was 23 years of age, was working for General Electric during December 1978, as she had since March 17, 1977. She had performed various job-related duties during her employment with General Electric. In December 1978, her employment duties as an accumulator required her to collect certain parts including power supplies, fuse boxes, transformers and brackets, which were used by other employees in the construction of particular General Electric products. Her duties as an accumulator also required her to load and unload certain materials. Each of the duties which she had performed during her employment with General Electric, including her duties as an accumulator, required claimant to use both of her hands.

While performing her employment duties on December 6, 1978, claimant climbed into the back of a tractor-trailer in order to obtain a particular copper bracket which was needed by a fellow employee. As she was attempting to climb down from the back of the trailer, she slipped on a patch of ice, fell a distance of approximately 3 to 4 feet to the ground, and landed on her right hand. Claimant related that at this point she experienced great pain, reported the injury to her foreman and sought medical attention from the company physician, Dr. Price. Although the physician was not in his office at that time, the company nurse took X rays of claimant's right wrist and instructed claimant to return for treatment the following day.

The company physician subsequently examined claimant, determined that she had sprained her wrist, informed her that this injury would eventually heal and recommended that she soak her wrist each day. Although she followed the company physician's advice and continued to work until the latter part of March 1979, claimant was still in pain and her wrist continued to swell. The company physician then suggested that she seek medical attention from Dr. Jerald Bratberg, an orthopedic surgeon.

Following his examination of claimant on or about March 28, 1979, Dr. Bratberg recommended that claimant cease working due to the condition of her right wrist. In a May 22, 1979, report which was introduced at the hearing, Dr. Bratberg stated that X rays which were taken in his office indicated that claimant had "early changes of avascular necrosis of the carpal lunate bone" which he believed was "post-traumatic." This report also indicated that claimant continued to experience pain and tenderness in her wrist and that there was a loss of full extension and full flexion of her wrist.

In an October 9, 1979, report which was introduced into evidence, Dr. Bratberg stated that if claimant's condition did not improve within three months from that date, he would recommend that claimant have arthroplasty of her right wrist with silastic implant replacement of the lunate bone.

Medical records introduced at the hearing indicate that: (1) claimant began receiving medical treatment from Dr. Alain Menguy in November 1979, and (2) Dr. Menguy performed surgery on claimant at Carle Clinic in Urbana on January 21, 1980, in order to implant a replacement of the lunate bone in her wrist.

Claimant testified that she wore various casts on her wrist for a period of approximately 11 weeks after the surgery. On May 6, 1980, claimant returned to work at General Electric and was assigned to work on a punch press and sorting machine. At the conclusion of her shift, claimant's wrist was swollen and painful. The company nurse examined claimant's wrist on two occasions and informed claimant that the condition of her wrist would not allow her to perform her employment duties. Claimant testified that General Electric then "put [her] on layoff again."

Claimant did not work again until the early portion of 1981. At that time, she returned to work at General Electric and continued to work for a period of approximately nine months. She was given various tasks which were designated as "light duty" work. For example, claimant was initially assigned the task of sorting screws which required claimant to use her right hand to press certain buttons on a machine. While performing this task, claimant experienced pain in her right wrist. In addition, claimant was forced to operate the machine with her right elbow because she was unable to press the buttons with her right hand.

Claimant testified that the tasks to which she was assigned during this approximately nine-month period were "created jobs" and "varied from day to day." During the latter portion of this period, claimant was being "bumped" from position to position as employees with more seniority with General Electric took the job upon which claimant was working and forced her to move to another job. Finally, claimant was assigned the task of wrapping coils. However, claimant testified that she did not perform this task since it required the use of both of her hands. At the end of this period, claimant stopped working for General Electric and once again started receiving temporary total incapacity benefits. Claimant testified at the hearing that she had not worked for General Electric since the end of this nine-month period.

Claimant further testified at the hearing that: (1) the flexibility of her wrist was limited, (2) she experienced severe pain in her wrist on the frequent occasions when the wrist would swell, and (3) she occasionally experienced numbness in her index and ring finger on her right hand.

In a February 6, 1982, report which was introduced into evidence, Dr. Gordon Schultz, who had examined claimant, stated that claimant had "reached maximum recovery which leaves her with considerable disability in the wrist." Dr. Schultz also stated that although she could do light work with her hands, her permanent disability prevented her from doing "medium work" or "heavy work."

Following the hearing, the arbitrator awarded claimant 165 5/7 weeks of temporary total incapacity benefits at the rate of $155.20 per week under section 8(b)(1) of the Act and ordered General Electric to pay certain penalties under section 19(1) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 48, par. 138.19(1)). The arbitrator also determined that the wrist injuries sustained caused a 25% disability of claimant and awarded 125 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits at the rate of $155.20 per week under section 8(d)(2) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.8(d)(2).

During the hearing on review before a member of the Commission, claimant testified as follows. On May 6, 1983, she obtained employment as a waitress in a restaurant known as The Hornet's Nest. Although she carried trays of food and dishes with her left hand and seldom used her right hand, she often experienced pain in her right wrist at the conclusion of her work shift. Claimant also introduced evidence which established the rate of pay for the General Electric job which she performed prior to her injury and her earnings as a waitress at the time of the hearing.

The Commission found that claimant had been temporarily totally disabled for an additional period of 12 1/7 weeks subsequent to the date of the arbitration hearing. Accordingly, the Commission awarded claimant 177 6/7 weeks of temporary total incapacity ...


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