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05/05/88 Anderson Clayton Foods, v. the Industrial Commission

May 5, 1988

ANDERSON CLAYTON FOODS, APPELLEE

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (KAREN ALLEN, APPELLANT)



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT, INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION DIVISION

526 N.E.2d 844, 171 Ill. App. 3d 457, 122 Ill. Dec. 451 1988.IL.678

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Morgan County; the Hon. Gordon D. Seator, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

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

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE BARRY

The petitioner, Karen Allen, filed three workers' compensation claims for injuries allegedly occurring on September 20, 1982, February 17, 1983, and December 22, 1983, while she was working for the respondent, Anderson Clayton Foods. The arbitrator held a consolidated hearing on the three claims. Only the latter two are before us on appeal. We will therefore limit our Discussion of the facts, as much as possible, to the latter claimed injuries.

Following the hearing, the arbitrator found that the petitioner had sustained a work-related injury on February 17, 1983, but that there was no causal connection between the accident and the petitioner's current condition of ill-being. The arbitrator further found that the December 22, 1983, occurrence did not constitute an accident.

On review, the Industrial Commission found that there was a causal connection between the February 17 accident and the petitioner's current condition of ill-being. The Commission further found that an accident had occurred on December 22, 1983. In making the latter finding, the Commission relied on Peoria County Belwood Nursing Home v. Industrial Comm'n (1985), 138 Ill. App. 3d 880, 487 N.E.2d 356, aff'd (1987), 115 Ill. 2d 524, 505 N.E.2d 1026.

The circuit court reversed the Commission and reinstated the arbitrator's decision. The petitioner appeals, arguing that the Commission's decisions were not against the manifest weight of the evidence and that the circuit court therefore erred in overturning them.

The burden is on the claimant to prove that her injury was causally related to her employment. (Newgard v. Industrial Comm'n (1974), 58 Ill. 2d 164, 317 N.E.2d 524.) However, aggravation or acceleration of a pre-existing disease is an injury which is compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.), if caused by some accident occurring in the course of employment. (Riteway Plumbing v. Industrial Comm'n (1977), 67 Ill. 2d 404, 367 N.E.2d 1294.) Further, an employee may be "accidentally injured" under the Act as a result of repetitive, work-related trauma even absent a final, identifiable episode of collapse. (Peoria County Belwood Nursing Home v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 115 Ill. 2d 524, 505 N.E.2d 1026.) In repetitive trauma cases, the employee must show that the injury is work-related and not the result of a normal degenerative aging process. Peoria County Belwood Nursing Home, 115 Ill. 2d 524, 505 N.E.2d 1026.

In determining whether the claimant has met her burden of proof, the Industrial Commission is not bound by the arbitrator's findings and may properly determine the credibility of the witnesses, weigh their testimony and assess the weight to be given to the evidence. (Rambert v. Industrial Comm'n (1985), 133 Ill. App. 3d 895, 477 N.E.2d 1364.) A reviewing court may overturn the Commission's factual determinations only when they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Berry v. Industrial Comm'n (1984), 99 Ill. 2d 401, 459 N.E.2d 963.

In the instant case, the petitioner testified before the arbitrator that on September 20, 1982, she was working on the respondent's salad oil line when she felt pain in her back and neck. She reported the pain to the respondent and was subsequently off work for several weeks, during which she received treatment. Even after she returned to work, her neck hurt and she had headaches when she worked long hours.

On February 17, 1983, the petitioner fell from a broken pallet at work. Her neck immediately hurt and she reported the incident to the respondent. She was off work until June 26, 1983, during which time she received physical therapy and took medicine. She continued having neck and back pain even after returning to work.

On December 22, 1983, the petitioner was working as a "scrambler." This involved dragging pallets loaded with boxes of empty bottles to the production line, throwing the boxes of empty bottles to another worker, and stacking the unloaded pallets. Every half hour, the petitioner would switch with her work partner and would then be in charge of placing the empty bottles onto a waist-high conveyor belt and the empty boxes onto a shoulder-high ...


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