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06/19/89 Caterpillar Tractor v. the Industrial Commission

June 19, 1989

CATERPILLAR TRACTOR COMPANY, APPELLANT

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (THOMAS PRICE, APPELLEE)



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

541 N.E.2d 665, 129 Ill. 2d 52, 133 Ill. Dec. 454 1989.IL.927

Appeal from the Industrial Commission Division of the Appellate Court; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, the Hon. Robert E. Manning, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CALVO took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE CLARK

Claimant, Thomas Price, was injured when he stepped off a curb onto the blacktop driveway in front of his place of employment. An arbitrator denied his claim for compensation, finding that he had failed to prove that the injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. The Industrial Commission reversed, and the circuit court confirmed the decision of the Industrial Commission finding the employer liable. The Industrial Commission division of the appellate court, with two Judges Dissenting, affirmed the circuit court. (170 Ill. App. 3d 148.) The appellate court declared, however, that the case involved a substantial question warranting consideration by this court, and Caterpillar Tractor Company filed a petition for leave to appeal pursuant to our Rule 315(a) (107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)). We granted review and reverse the judgment of the appellate court.

The facts in this case are not in dispute. At the time of the incident, Thomas Price was employed by the Caterpillar Tractor Company (Caterpillar) as a carton packer. On July 7, 1979, after completing his shift, Price left the building through the door normally used by the employees, intending to go to his car, which was parked in the employee parking lot. Immediately in front of the building was a sidewalk with a curb running along its edge. Price walked along the sidewalk for about 30 feet and then stepped off the curb onto the blacktop driveway. There was a slight cement slope, apparently for drainage, between the curb and the blacktop driveway. As Price stepped off the curb, his right foot landed half on the cement incline and half on the blacktop driveway and he twisted his ankle. The driveway was part of the company premises and was used both by employees and by the general public to pick up employees. There is no evidence of holes, rocks or obstructions on the pavement.

Based on this evidence, the arbitrator found that Price had failed to prove that he sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment. The arbitrator determined that stepping from the curb and twisting an ankle was not resultant from a risk peculiar to the employment of the claimant and that he was not exposed to a risk of injury greater than that to which the general public was exposed.

The Industrial Commission reversed the arbitrator's decision, finding that because Price had to step off the curb to get to the parking lot, his injury arose out of and in the course of his employment. Caterpillar contends that this decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence and urges this court to set aside the decision of the Industrial Commission.

We begin our analysis by recognizing that in order for an injury to be compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act, the injury must "arise out of" and "in the course of" the employment. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 138.2.) The phrase "in the course of" refers to the time, place and circumstances under which the accident occurred. (Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 38, 44.) This court has recognized that accidental injuries sustained on an employer's premises within a reasonable time before and after work are generally deemed to arise in the course of the employment (see Jones v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 78 Ill. 2d 284, 286; Peel v. Industrial Comm'n (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 257, 260) and Caterpillar does not dispute that point. However, the fact that the injury arose in the course of the employment is not sufficient to impose liability; to be compensable, the injury must also "arise out of" the employment. Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 38, 45; Greene v. Industrial Comm'n (1981), 87 Ill. 2d 1, 5.

For an injury to "arise out of" the employment its origin must be in some risk connected with, or incidental to, the employment so as to create a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury. (Jewel Cos. v. Industrial Comm'n (1974), 57 Ill. 2d 38, 40; Chmelik v. Vana (1964), 31 Ill. 2d 272, 277.) Typically, an injury arises out of one's employment if, at the time of the occurrence, the employee was performing acts he was instructed to perform by his employer, acts which he had a common law or statutory duty to perform, or acts which the employee might reasonably be expected to perform incident to his assigned duties. (Howell Tractor & Equipment Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 78 Ill. 2d 567, 573.) A risk is incidental to the employment where it belongs to or is connected with what an employee has to do in fulfilling his duties. Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 38, 45; Fisher Body Division, General Motors Corp. v. Industrial Comm'n (1968), 40 Ill. 2d 514, 516; see, e.g., Peel v. Industrial Comm'n (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 257 (claimant injured while pushing vehicle which was blocking entrance to parking lot); Union Starch, Division of Miles Laboratories, Inc. v. Industrial Comm'n (1974), 56 Ill. 2d 272 (claimant injured during break on employer's roof).

If an employee is exposed to a risk common to the general public to a greater degree than other persons, the accidental injury is also said to arise out of his employment. (Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 38, 45; see, e.g., Chmelik v. Vana (1964), 31 Ill. 2d 272, 278 (claimant injured during a mass exodus of vehicles at quitting time); DeHoyos v. Industrial Comm'n (1962), 26 Ill. 2d 110 (claimant fell on ice in employer's parking lot).) However, if the injury results from a hazard to which the employee would have been equally exposed apart from the employment, or a risk personal to the employee, it is not compensable. Material Services Corp. v. Industrial Comm'n (1973), 53 Ill. 2d 429, 433; see, e.g., Orsini v. Industrial Comm'n (1987), 117 Ill. 2d 38 (claimant's automobile lurched forward, injuring claimant); Branch v. Industrial Comm'n (1983), 95 Ill. 2d 268 (claimant injured while removing his coat after arriving at work); Greene v. Industrial Comm'n (1981), 87 Ill. 2d 1 (claimant assaulted on employer's premises by unidentified assailant); Jones v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 78 Ill. 2d 284 (claimant closed car door on his hand); Fisher Body Division, General Motors Corp. v. Industrial Comm'n (1968), 40 Ill. 2d 514 (claimant's car battery exploded).

In the instant case, Price contends, and the appellate court found, that the injury occurred both as the result of a condition on the employer's premises and because he was exposed to a greater degree of risk than the general public. The court noted that since there was evidence of a slight slope between the curb and the driveway, and since there was no evidence that the claimant tripped or fainted, or that the fall was idiopathic in nature, the Commission could properly have inferred that the cause of claimant's injury was the existence of the slope. The court further held that since Price was required to step off the curb to reach his vehicle, and there is no such requirement of the general public, he was subjected to a risk not required of the general public. 170 Ill. App. 3d at 151-52.

We first consider whether the injury resulted from the condition of the employer's premises. We note that the Industrial Commission made no specific findings of fact as to this issue. Consequently, we must examine the record to determine whether the inference that the injury was caused by the slope is supported by ...


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