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11/09/88 Dale Darling, v. the Industrial Commission

November 9, 1988





530 N.E.2d 1135, 176 Ill. App. 3d 186, 125 Ill. Dec. 726 1988.IL.1629

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Alexander P. White, Judge, presiding.


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


Petitioner Dale Darling sought workers' compensation benefits for an alleged repetitive accidental injury to his left arm suffered while working for respondent Crane Packing Company. An arbitrator denied benefits after finding petitioner failed to prove he sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment. The Industrial Commission, with one Dissenting member, affirmed the arbitrator's findings, and the circuit court of Cook County confirmed that decision. Petitioner appeals, contending that it was against the manifest weight of the evidence to find insufficient proof that any specific accident occurred and to find insufficient proof that a repetitive trauma occurred, and that it was error as a matter of law to demand quantitative evidence of the exact nature of the repetitive work duties.

Petitioner testified that he began working for respondent in June 1983 as a machine operator. In September 1983, petitioner began working exclusively on a degreaser machine. This operation required "[working] with both my hands, with my left hand extended above my head with repeated motions of above my head and below throughout the course of the shift." The repeated motions were required to operate the hoist of the machine. During September and November, petitioner noticed that "toward the end of the day I would experience some soreness in my left arm and left hand and left shoulder." He did not seek medical treatment.

On November 17, 1983, at 3:25 p.m., petitioner began his shift and was operating the hoist on the degreaser machine. Petitioner denied telling the supervisor before work that his hand was swollen. At 3:30 p.m., petitioner noticed his left hand had become swollen. He stopped work, reported the problem to his supervisor, Mickey Terrell, and then returned to work. He continued to work for 25 minutes, but the pain increased and the arm became swollen. In addition, the left arm and hand had become discolored, turning dark red. He reported to his supervisor and then left work to seek medical care.

Supervisor Terrell testified that on November 17, 1983, at approximately 3 p.m., before starting the shift, petitioner told Terrell "his hand was swollen and he thought he might not be able to do a particular type of work, his task. I took a look at the hand and it was swollen and I asked him if he could work with it and he said no and that was the conversation." To the best of Terrell's knowledge, petitioner did not work at all that day. Terrell testified that petitioner's job on the degreasing unit required pushing and pulling a hoist. Petitioner told Terrell he was not sure how his hand became swollen, but it could have come from operating the hoist. Petitioner had been a very good worker and had not experienced any other work accidents. Terrell recalled petitioner reporting "a slight accident at home" in early November 1983 when he fell down some stairs. Petitioner lost no time from work following that accident.

When petitioner left work on November 17, 1983, he immediately sought medical treatment. On November 20, he returned to the hospital. A November 20, 1983, emergency room record indicates that petitioner "woke up Thursday" November 17 with a swollen left hand, and the swelling had increased since then, traveling to the left arm., Petitioner was admitted to the hospital, where he remained for three weeks, and was treated by Dr. Gerald Eisenberg and by Drs. McLaughlin and Katz.

Dr. Eisenberg wrote that the left arm showed hyperesthesia, the left hand was grossly swollen, and that petitioner could not move his fingers without considerable pain. Petitioner was discharged from the hospital with a diagnosis of reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

A December 1983 bone scan and physical findings were compatible with the diagnosis of reflex dystrophy. Petitioner received high dosages of steroids and went into a relatively good remission by the end of December. He was pain-free for several weeks in January. Dr. Eisenberg noted that the pain returned one to two weeks after returning to his job. "[Any] attempt to resume work resulted in recurrence of symptoms."

A January 20, 1984, hospital progress note states that on the November 1983 admission the etiology was felt to be related to his job, "which involved a repetitive arm motion above his shoulder."

In February 1984, petitioner was again hospitalized by Dr. Eisenberg for surgery and other treatment.

A February 15, 1984, progress note written by Dr. John Wilkum reports: "He had worked in a factory on a hoist using his left arm repetitively and this was thought to be the causative stress leading to his problem."

A February 18, 1984, consultation report by Dr. Sherwyn E. Warren states: "These episodes began about four months ago when the patient's job was changed to one involving reaching overhead and working with his arm overhead."

A February 23, 1984, discharge summary written by Dr. J. Wilkerson stated that petitioner "had worked in a factory on a hoist using his left arm repetitively, and this was thought to be the cause of his stress leading to his problem."

A February 25, 1984, letter from Dr. Melvin P. Katz indicates petitioner reported to the emergency room that the pain and swelling began ...

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