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02/26/87 the Industrial Commission v. the Industrial Commission

February 26, 1987




506 N.E.2d 599, 153 Ill. App. 3d 1030, 106 Ill. Dec. 799 1987.IL.236

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County; the Hon. Lehman D. Krause, Judge, presiding.


Justice Woodward delivered the opinion of the court. Barry, P.J., and McCullough, McNamara, and Kasserman, JJ., concur.


Virginia Wheeler filed a claim for benefits against her employer, McCarthy Brothers Construction Company (McCarthy). Following a hearing, the arbitrator determined that a compensable accident had occurred, but found that there was no causal relationship between the accident and Wheeler's present condition of ill-being. The arbitrator's decision was affirmed by the Industrial Commission. On review, the circuit court of Jefferson County confirmed, and this appeal followed.

At the hearing before the arbitrator, Wheeler testified that on March 23, 1981, she and a co-worker were moving a 300-pound filing cabinet. The cabinet slipped from the co-worker's hands, causing the weight to shift and fall on her. She felt something snap in her back and experienced pain in her lower back and right leg. She took Extra Strength Tylenol and finished the day doing lighter work.

When she returned home that evening, her husband had to assist her out of her car. She immediately went to bed. The next day, she could not lift the heavy items and was assigned light duties. However, she was not able to work the whole day and left work at 11 a.m. She then contacted Dr. Gene M. Modert and went immediately to his office. The pain continued to increase, and she "began going sideways." She stopped going out in public because people stared at her. The pain was so great that her children had to take over her housekeeping tasks. Finally, on May 13, 1981, she was admitted to the hospital for 10 days. She was allowed to leave the hospital by Dr. Coss under the conditions that she have a hospital bed and a Tens Unit and would come to the hospital for outpatient therapy. Dr. Sohni, who had actually admitted her to the hospital, had advised her to stay in the hospital until she could straighten up completely.

After her discharge from the hospital, McCarthy requested that she be examined by Dr. Misken in St. Louis. Wheeler and her husband traveled to St. Louis, but because Dr. Misken refused to examine her with her husband present, the examination did not take place. She then saw Dr. Chow at McCarthy's request. She also continued to see Dr. Modert.

Wheeler testified further that at the present time the pain has increased. It is particularly bad in her right thigh. She also has a sharp pain in her rib area when she bends over. She also has tenderness in her hands. The pain in her right hip runs down her leg into the calf of her leg. The pain from her back also goes into her left leg. She also tilts to the left. She had none of these problems prior to her accident.

On March 15, 1982, she was visited by a counselor from Crawford Rehabilitation at the request of McCarthy's insurance company. She was given several tests which she took. The counselor indicated to her that he really did not know what she was doing there because one had to be physically able to hold down a job. She was also examined at the request of the insurance company by Dr. Mendelsohn and Dr. Rosenbaum. At the request of Dr. Modert, she went to St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis for a CT scan.

Wheeler testified about previous bouts with depression. She had been depressed following an earlier injury to her arm when she could not work and when her father passed away. Neither of these episodes of depression had interfered with her ability to perform her daily duties.

On cross-examination, Wheeler testified that her 14-year-old son had died on August 20, 1981, and that she was upset by that fact.

Also testifying before the arbitrator was Dr. Modert. He has been Wheeler's general physician for the past 20 years. He examined her after her accident and eventually recommended her hospitalization. He noted that she continued to have pain in her lower back which worsened. X rays were taken but no physical findings were noted. A tentative diagnosis of strain was made, and she was placed on medications to relax her back and also for pain. Dr. Sahni, a neurosurgeon, saw her and did various studies which proved negative. A myelogram was done which was also negative. He first noted Wheeler's depression in July of 1981 when she had frequent crying spells. He did not know what the cause of the depression was, although Wheeler related it to her back pain. While she was emotionally disturbed as a result of the death of her son, he did not notice any difference in her afterwards.

Dr. Modert testified further that neither he nor the other consulting physicians had found any organic explanation or organic changes in Wheeler. While the psychological problem predominated, he was not prepared to say that there was no organic explanation for her condition. He felt that the proper approach would be a combination of psychological and physiotherapeutic treatment. When asked if her present condition of ill-being might or could be related to her accident of March 23, ...

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