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03/24/88 General Telephone Company v. the Industrial Commission

March 24, 1988





521 N.E.2d 287, 167 Ill. App. 3d 420, 118 Ill. Dec. 219 1988.IL.424

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County; the Hon. C. David Nelson and the Hon. Robert H. Howerton, Judges, presiding.


JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court. BARRY, P.J., and McNAMARA, WOODWARD, and CALVO, JJ., concur.


Respondent appeals from an order of the circuit court which reversed an Industrial Commission (Commission) order finding claimant failed to prove his condition of ill-being was causally related to the alleged incident producing the disability. We reverse.

Claimant, a 41-year-old sales representative who designed and wrote orders for new service, testified that on August 31, 1986, while parked at the office, he felt a sharp pain in his lower back while getting out of his car. Employed as a sales representative for 16 years, claimant's work required extensive automobile travel with four to seven daily appointments.

Claimant testified he went to Dr. Ravingdranathan the next day who administered an ultrasonic treatment and prescribed alternating hot and cold packs.

In December 1978 claimant went to Dr. Brundick claiming he continued to have sharp pains which radiated into his legs. Brundick took X rays and a laminograph, prescribed aspirin, a back brace, and exercises, but offered no other treatment to claimant. Claimant also saw a company doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, and a chiropractor on various occasions. Claimant testified he continues to have constant back pain and at times has trouble walking. He cannot play basketball nor can he run. He admitted, however, he has worked continuously since the alleged accident, although he missed 7 to 10 days work because of his back condition during the subsequent 3 1/2 years. Claimant maintained he had no back problem prior to August 31, 1978.

On cross-examination claimant disputed Dr. Ravingdranathan's records which indicated claimant did not visit the doctor until September 5, 1978. Claimant also denied telling Dr. Brundick the pain in his back began one year before his visit in December 1978. Claimant admitted he might have told Brundick he thought the pain arose because he rode in a car too much. Claimant has never been hospitalized for his condition and, with the exception of an injection given him by one of the doctors and chiropractic manipulations, he has had no other treatment for his condition. He has worked continuously, plays golf once a week, and participates in a church softball league during the summer, playing every position.

The testimony of Dr. Brundick was admitted by deposition. Brundick saw claimant on December 4, 1978. At that time claimant offered a history of pain in the lower back originating approximately one year earlier. Onset of pain was gradual and claimant attributed it to riding around in his automobile. Brundick stated claimant did not tell him about any relationship between his pain and his employment nor did he describe any event occurring in August 1978 or offer any history of an injury to his back while alighting from an automobile.

An X ray revealed a defect in that portion of the L5 vertebra which interlocked with the first vertebra of the sacrum. This defect permitted forward and backward displacement of the spinal column. Brundick also diagnosed a number of other abnormalities which did not relate directly to claimant's back condition, including the fact claimant's left leg was shorter than his right, and his left calf and thigh were smaller in circumference than their counterparts. An EMG test also revealed abnormalities in the muscles of the thigh and shin.

Brundick recommended claimant undertake exercise and "wait this out." He had no opinion as to the cause of the condition although there were various theories for it within the medical profession. One possibility was congenital defect. Another theory suggested a prior acute injury could cause the gradual development of the condition. Brundick had no indication from claimant and no opinion that his employment had any relationship to his back condition, although Brundick was of the opinion riding in a car for long periods could aggravate, but not cause, the condition. Back pain in middle-aged people from riding in a car was not unusual and occurred as part of the aging process. Brundick was also of the opinion claimant was not prohibited from pursuing all activities requiring stooping, bending, or lifting. Only repetitive stress of this sort was to be avoided.

The records from Dr. Ravingdranathan confirmed claimant's first visit was on September 5, 1978, in contrast to claimant's testimony he saw the doctor the day after the pain appeared. The doctor ...

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