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Vera v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 10, 1986.

FLORENCIO VERA, APPELLANT,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (OLMARC PACKAGING, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Edwin M. Berman, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE BARRY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The petitioner, Florencio Vera, claimed benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.), for injury sustained while employed by the respondent, Olmarc Packaging (the company). For the petitioner's 20% permanent and complete loss of use of his left hand, the arbitrator awarded the petitioner 38 weeks of compensation. The Commission modified the decision of the arbitrator by reducing the award to five weeks of compensation for serious disfigurement to his right hand. The circuit court of Cook County confirmed the decision of the Commission. The petitioner brings the instant appeal claiming that the Commission improperly admitted certain medical records and that its delayed decision both subverted the purpose of the Act and was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.

At arbitration, the evidence established the following. The company employed the petitioner to drive a jeep. On December 21, 1979, when the petitioner attempted to turn the company's jeep, it reversed accidentally and then his left hand was thrust against its roll bar and steering wheel. The petitioner reported the accident and then rested for 30 minutes. Several weeks later, the petitioner felt pain and noticed a mass in the central portion, dorsum, of his left hand. By June of 1980, a bilocular ganglion had grown, and the pain had intensified. The company's Lehigh Clinic personnel aspirated the ganglion, but it appears the painful cyst recurred several weeks later.

In February of 1981, the company laid off the petitioner. The following June, Dr. Barry Fischer discovered a soft tissue mass on the dorsum of the petitioner's left hand over the mid-portion of the third metacarpal. Dr. Fischer concluded that a contusion and strain injury to the petitioner's left hand had caused the ganglion cyst, tendonitis, and residual swelling that necessitated surgery.

The petitioner consulted Dr. T. Shelly Ashbell, who, in November of 1981, excised the ganglion and performed a capsulectomy and synovectomy between the petitioner's capitate-metacarpal joint and the dorsum of his left hand. Dr. Ashbell casted the affected area, and released the petitioner to return to work on November 19.

On November 30, the petitioner experienced chronic synovitis in his wrist joint and swelling of the dorsum of his left hand. Subsequently, Dr. Ashbell twice aspirated the wound. By April 14, 1982, synovial fluid had ceased to accumulate; and the wound had healed. In Dr. Ashbell's opinion, a work-related injury had caused the chronic synovitis which produced the ganglion at the petitioner's carpal joint.

In March of 1982, Dr. Gerald Harris examined the petitioner and concluded that he could work normally with his hands. By September of 1982, however, the petitioner had lost sensation in his left hand, and experienced pain and fatigue when carrying heavy objects for an extended time.

The arbitrator found that on December 21, 1979, the petitioner was injured in the course of his employment at the company and that his present condition of ill-being was causally related to his injury. The arbitrator awarded the petitioner 38 weeks of compensation for the permanent and complete loss of use of 20% of his left hand, as aforesaid.

On review, the company introduced the April 16, 1982, report of Dr. Ashbell. Without objection at arbitration, the petitioner had introduced that report but had deleted Dr. Ashbell's observations that the petitioner had no symptoms, complaints, or functional impairment, and his conclusion that there would be no future disability.

After Commissioner Miller demanded a viewing of the petitioner's left hand and after a 14-month delay, the Commission affirmed the arbitrator's conclusions. However, the Commission reduced the award to five weeks of compensation for disfigurement to the petitioner's right hand.

The circuit court confirmed the decision of the Commission.

We first address the petitioner's argument that the Commission's delayed decision and demanded viewing subverted the purpose of the Act.

• 1 We acknowledge the fundamental purpose of the Act to provide employees with prompt, equitable compensation for their work-related injuries (Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. (1978), 74 Ill.2d 172, 384 N.E.2d 353), and recognize that the Commission's decision was unreasonably delayed. However, the silent record neither explains the delay nor suggests that the viewing was objectionable. Hence, we decline to provide the petitioner with a speculative remedy.

• 2 We next address the petitioner's argument that the arbitrator improperly admitted his wife's hospital records regarding facial injuries inflicted by the petitioner in 1979 and that the Commission erred in readmitting Dr. Ashbell's report with his conclusions of ultimate facts. The company responds that by not providing an accurate copy of the ...


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