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04/28/88 Esco Corporation, v. the Industrial Commission

April 28, 1988

ESCO CORPORATION, APPELLANT

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (JAMES BULLIAS, APPELLEE)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT, INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION DIVISION

523 N.E.2d 589, 169 Ill. App. 3d 376, 119 Ill. Dec. 833 1988.IL.619

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. David Bernthal, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

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

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCNAMARA

Claimant James Bullias sought workers' compensation benefits following a heart attack which he suffered after playing 18 holes of golf, five months after he was discharged by his employer, Esco Corporation. An arbitrator awarded $306.67 per week for life as permanent total disability benefit, and found that the tension and stress caused by a demotion, termination, and other work-related events continued beyond the termination date. The Industrial Commission affirmed, finding that the work-related stresses and resulting coronary injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The circuit court of Vermilion County confirmed the Commission's decision. The employer appeals, contending that the injury did not arise out of and in the course of the employment.

Claimant worked for Esco from April 18, 1950, to April 16, 1982. He acted as personnel manager for 26 years, and in January 1978 he was congratulated for his work and given a substantial raise. Several months later, in April 1978, claimant was informed by Arnie Wellman, the plant manager, that he was being replaced as director of industrial relations. Claimant testified that he experienced no cardiac problems before this date.

In September 1978, Edward Judice replaced claimant, who kept his title but reported to Judice. In December 1979, Judice spoke with claimant about his possible termination. Claimant testified that Judice said claimant would have to prove he was valuable and would have six months to hold down the cost of workers' compensation and control absenteeism. Judice agreed that he used the word "termination" in this conversation. Claimant felt shock and nervousness and began sending out resumes.

Judice testified that claimant asked him about the conversation several times, and that claimant worked under the assumption that he would be fired in May, despite assurances by Judice and Wellman that he would not be terminated. Judice observed that claimant had written "D-Day" on his calendar on May 31, 1980. Claimant continued to work past this date.

After 1981, the business went into a decline and a number of employees were terminated.

From May 1980 to January 1982, claimant's duties and responsibilities were reduced. Claimant became nervous and depressed. He took long car rides at night and watched television frequently. Wellman noticed no changes in claimant during this period.

On January 15, 1982, Judice and Wellman told claimant he was being transferred to the production control department as a production scheduler because there was not enough work in personnel. Several workers were ill in the production control department and someone was needed with a good knowledge of the plant. Claimant performed that job for three months. He felt unqualified, anxious, and nervous. His nervousness prevented his dentures from fitting, and he felt humiliated and embarrassed about his entire situation. He was often unable to sleep, sometimes vomited on the way to work, and considered suicide.

Wellman testified that claimant was subject to low periods, but that during this period his depression lasted longer than usual following the trauma of the move from personnel.

On April 8, 1982, Wellman suggested that the 56-year-old claimant retire early because the business was not doing well. Claimant requested a full pension. The employer had provided several employees with a full pension with an early retirement, although they had been with Esco for fewer years than claimant, but no employee under 60 years old had ever received a full pension. Claimant therefore refused ...


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