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04/13/88 the Industrial Commission v. the Industrial Commission

April 13, 1988




523 N.E.2d 111, 168 Ill. App. 3d 959, 119 Ill. Dec. 643 1988.IL.522

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Mary Conrad, Judge, presiding.


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


Petitioner Dolores Burda sought worker's compensation and occupational disease benefits after suffering several episodes of myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure while employed by respondent Vesco Ventilation & Equipment Sales. An arbitrator denied benefits after finding that petitioner failed to prove she sustained an accident or disablement arising out of and in the course of her employment. The Industrial Commission affirmed the arbitrator's decision.

The circuit court of Cook County reversed the Commission's decision, finding the Commission erred in hearing additional expert medical evidence from respondent on review. The court found that without that evidence, respondent failed to rebut the occurrence facts and medical Conclusions established by petitioner's witnesses; consequently, petitioner's evidence permitted only one inference and causation was established as a matter of law. The court found further that, even if it considered the additional expert testimony offered by respondent, it would still find the evidence insufficient and would conclude that the decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court vacated the Commission's decision and remanded for an evaluation of the claim and an appropriate award. Respondent appealed to this court, which entered an order finding that the Commission had jurisdiction to hear the matter. On remand, the Commission entered its decision, which found petitioner was totally and permanently disabled and entitled to $105,470.34 in medical expenses. On judicial review, the circuit court entered an order affirming the Commission's decision on remand. Respondent appeals, contending that the trial court erred in reversing the Commission's original decision which awarded no benefits.

Petitioner worked as an office manager for respondent for 20 years. She supervised personnel and performed numerous other functions. In May 1980, petitioner was examined at Mayo Clinic for complaints of left-arm pain. The findings were negative. On July 7, 1980, petitioner again experienced pain and discomfort in her left arm, and it kept her awake during the night. On July 8, 1980, petitioner went to work, where she had been calculating the salesmen's quarterly commissions. This work included carrying ledger books. Petitioner testified that she was under pressure from the salesmen to finish the task as soon as possible, although the checks were not actually due until July 15. During the morning at work, petitioner became ill, experiencing gripping pain in her chest. She was taken to the hospital, where a diagnosis of myocardial infarction was subsequently made.

On August 25, 1980, petitioner returned to work part time with her doctor's approval. On August 29, 1980, petitioner felt tired at work. Later, at home, she experienced difficulty breathing and was taken to the hospital. Congestive heart failure was diagnosed. On September 17, 1980, petitioner returned to work part time, once again with her doctor's approval. On September 19, 1980, petitioner was again admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.

Petitioner has not worked since September 1980. She has experienced several additional cardiac incidents, has undergone extensive surgical and diagnostic procedures and multiple hospitalizations. Respondent does not dispute that petitioner is totally and permanently disabled, and respondent stipulates that the medical expenses were reasonable and necessary.

William W. Quitmeier, petitioner's superior, testified as to petitioner's work duties and characterized her as a workaholic and perfectionist. While she was sometimes pressured by the salesmen to compute and distribute their quarterly commissions, causing her to work overtime, Quitmeier did not remember any details about the second quarter of 1980. He did recall that petitioner worked no overtime during the week prior to her July 1980 heart attack. Ms. Konter, a co-worker, testified that petitioner's job was demanding. The salesmen were often hostile to petitioner at the end of a quarter.

Dr. James R. Dan, an internist and petitioner's treating physician, testified on behalf of petitioner that her work "could or might have played a role in her [cardiac] event." He stated further that her condition of arteriosclerosis had progressed far enough such that she could have suffered a heart attack even in her sleep. Any exertion was potentially harmful. The myocardial infarction could have occurred before she went to work on July 8, 1980. While a January 1982 angioplasty was performed to relieve arm pain caused by arteriosclerosis, he did not know whether the July 7, 1980, arm pain was caused by the blocking of that artery or by her premyocardial infarction state.

Dr. Louis Stephen McKeever, a cardiologist who treated petitioner, testified in an evidence deposition that petitioner's work "may have been causally related" to the July 8, 1980, myocardial infarction. Dr. McKeever stated further that petitioner's arteriosclerosis is a progressive disease which was not caused by work. If in fact petitioner suffered pain for 12 hours prior to her admission to the hospital on July 8, 1980, he would think that the infarction had already begun before she went to work on July 8. She could have had a heart attack at rest, and it would be speculative to say what might have caused the myocardial infarction.

On review, petitioner testified further as to her present condition.

A commissioner received the deposition of Dr. William D. Barnhart, who testified for respondent on November 21, 1983, that he had examined petitioner on April 5, 1983. He believed that the myocardial infarction was not caused by her work activity. In his opinion, the severity of her disease had progressed to a point where the myocardial infarction would have occurred regardless of the activities in which petitioner had engaged. Carrying ledgers at work was probably not the cause of the infarction, ...

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