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08/04/89 Russell Roose, v. the Industrial Commission

August 4, 1989





543 N.E.2d 514, 187 Ill. App. 3d 525, 135 Ill. Dec. 131 1989.IL.1198

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. Joseph P. Skowronski, Judge, presiding.


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


Claimant, Russell Roose, filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) for injuries received in a work-related accident occurring on January 7, 1981. Claimant alleged that, while working as a construction electrician for respondent, he was standing on approximately the third rung of a ladder when he fell and fractured both wrists. The eventual result of the accident was bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (syndrome).

On July 16, 1984, the matter was heard before an arbitrator, who decided that claimant, because of the injury, was permanently and totally disabled. In its decision and opinion on review issued on September 12, 1986, the Industrial Commission (Commission) found that a causal relationship existed between the injuries and claimant's syndrome; that claimant was intermittently temporarily totally disabled for 162 2/7 weeks; and that claimant's condition had not yet reached a state of permanency.

On appeal the circuit court of Vermilion County found that the Commission's decision holding claimant's syndrome was related to the January 7, 1981, injury was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. The cause was remanded to the Commission for it to determine what temporary total compensation, permanent total disability, and medical bills, if any, claimant had sustained without consideration of the syndrome.

On remand review, the Commission found, without giving consideration to the syndrome, that claimant had sustained permanent partial disability of 25% loss of the use of his left hand and 35% loss of the use of his right hand. It also modified the award of temporary total disability to 12 4/7 weeks. The circuit court confirmed this award. This appeal followed.

On appeal, claimant raises one issue, namely, whether the circuit court erred when it held that the Commission's finding of a causal connection between the industrial accident and the syndrome was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The following facts are pertinent to our Disposition of this appeal. Claimant testified that he was a construction electrician who was employed by respondent on January 7, 1981. On that date, he was climbing a ladder sideways and carrying some tools when he missed a rung and fell, hitting both hands on the tile floor below. Dr. Adeli and Dr. Heatherington treated claimant for his injuries. Dr. Adeli diagnosed a comminuted (crushed into small pieces) fracture of the distal radius, including the distal third "radius [ sic ]," with dorsal angulation of distal fragments of the left wrist and a comminuted Colles fracture of the right wrist. Dr. Adeli performed a closed reduction and applied short arm Cutter casts to both arms. On January 22, 1981, Dr. Adeli performed another reduction of the right wrist fracture.

Dr. Heatherington saw claimant five times from March 2 to December 18, 1981, and Dr. Adeli saw him seven times from January 30 to November 11, 1981. On March 25, 1981, when Dr. Adeli released him to return to work as of April 6, 1981, claimant still complained of wrist pain and limitation of wrist motion.

Claimant testified that he returned to his regular work duties on April 6, 1981, and was laid off in January 1982. He was called back to work on March 1, 1982, but on April 16, 1982, he ceased working due to severe pain in both wrists and forearms. At this time, Dr. Heatherington referred him to Dr. Steichen, an Indianapolis-based specialist in the treatment of hands.

Dr. Steichen first examined claimant on April 26, 1982, and found some limitation of flexion and extension of both wrists and signs of the syndrome. He placed both wrists in immobilization splints. When the symptoms were not relieved by the splints, Dr. Steichen performed a bilateral carpal tunnel release with external neurolysis of the median nerve on August 20, 1982. On November 10, 1982, claimant informed Dr. Steichen that the carpal tunnel release had relieved his forearm pain but that the pain in his wrists was so severe that he had to wear his wrist splints continuously. After a trial period with a TNS unit, Dr. Steichen referred claimant to Dr. ...

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