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08/25/89 Annie Austin, v. St. Joseph Hospital

August 25, 1989






STAT. 1985, CH. 110, PAR. 2-1005) FOR DEFENDANT.

Before going to Mayo, plaintiff spoke to Burdulis on three occasions by phone regarding scheduling the grievance proceeding. Burdulis cancelled the date they had agreed on but never contacted her thereafter regarding a different date. Plaintiff told Burdulis to get back to her regarding scheduling a different date because plaintiff had scheduled "some medical appointments." Plaintiff did not say she was going to Mayo Clinic.


543 N.E.2d 932, 187 Ill. App. 3d 891, 135 Ill. Dec. 364 1989.IL.1312

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas E. Hoffman, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., concurs. JUSTICE PINCHAM, Dissenting.

We affirm.

On October 7, 1985, plaintiff, Annie Austin, filed a complaint against defendant, St. Joseph Hospital (St. Joseph), her former employer, alleging she was discharged from employment as a staff nurse in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission. Defendant denied the material allegations of the complaint.

On September 4, 1986, defendant moved for summary judgment. Defendant supported the motion with plaintiff's own deposition testimony, relevant portions of which we summarize below, and exhibits offered in conjunction therewith.

Plaintiff testified she was hired by St. Joseph on January 25, 1982. Plaintiff acknowledged that an employee handbook, in effect at the time she was discharged, embodied the employment agreement between plaintiff and St. Joseph. Plaintiff's signature on a receipt slip for the handbook appeared below an acknowledgement that the policies contained in the handbook were "explained or provided" to her. Her signature also appeared on a second similar receipt indicating her understanding that policies contained in the handbook were subject to change without notice.

Plaintiff testified that she injured her back on May 7, 1984, while lifting a patient out of bed. At some point following her injury, plaintiff filled out an injury report. She was examined by one of the physicians in the emergency room and was sent home. She was also sent home early on her next scheduled day of duty at the hospital. Plaintiff reported to work on her next scheduled day of duty thereafter and was examined by Dr. Shin. Sometime before being examined by Shin, plaintiff had been examined by Dr. Avora at Chicago Health Service upon her father's referral. Plaintiff was placed on "light duty" status at the hospital.

During the last two weeks of May, plaintiff was also examined by Dr. Hyman, a staff physician at St. Joseph. Hyman released her for work, but limited her activities to duties which did not require her to lift more than five pounds. After Hyman's release, she spoke to her supervisor, Ellen O'Mara, about the possibility of returning to work with those restrictions, but was told no such work was available.

For approximately five days in June 1984, plaintiff was hospitalized at St. Joseph. Plaintiff was treated there by Hyman, Dr. Horwitz, a neurologist, and Dr. Scott, an internist. However, plaintiff testified, because she was not receiving adequate attention, she requested a transfer to Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital (Rush), where plaintiff's internist, Dr. Williamson, was affiliated. Plaintiff stated St. Joseph initially refused to pay for the transfer. Plaintiff stated that when she arranged, independently through her sister, to hire an ambulance for that purpose, defendant acquiesced. She stated that Hyman told her that if she left St. Joseph without being transferred, she would lose her "workers'."

Plaintiff stated that after being examined at Rush by a physical therapist, she developed the impression that she would be under the care of the physical therapist for two to three weeks "based on what [was] uncovered." Plaintiff stated that later that day she spoke with O'Mara and told O'Mara what the therapist had discovered. Plaintiff stated that the physical therapist thereafter "changed her plans" and decided she did not need to see plaintiff for two to three weeks. Plaintiff stated the therapist "couldn't or wouldn't" explain her reasons. Plaintiff also stated that during her hospitalization at Rush, St. Joseph wanted to refer her to a particular neurologist but that she "refused him" because she "felt he may have had a bias." She did not recall the physician's name.

Plaintiff acknowledged she believed "very strongly" that her refusal to see the physician referred by St. Joseph somehow affected the treatment she received from Williamson. Plaintiff explained that when she arrived at Rush, there was a "discrepancy" between the treatment she expected and the treatment she received.

Plaintiff stated that she began to receive workers' compensation payments retroactively in May or June, but had received no benefits between the period of her hospitalization at St. Joseph and her stay at Rush. Plaintiff stated that after she was discharged from Rush in July 1984, she complained about not receiving benefits during that time. Plaintiff also stated that on July 6, 1984, she had filed an application for adjustment of her workers' compensation claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission. Plaintiff acknowledged, however, that she did receive the entirety of benefits due. Plaintiff's benefits terminated in October of 1984.

Plaintiff testified that following her discharge from Rush, she continued to receive treatment from Williamson and a treatment group at Cook County Hospital. Plaintiff paid for that treatment herself.

In August 1984, she was examined by Dr. Leonard Smith at the request of either St. Joseph or the insurance carrier associated with the workers' compensation benefits. Following that examination on October 15, 1984, plaintiff spoke with Pam Linke of St. Joseph over the telephone about returning to work. Plaintiff was advised that Smith had determined plaintiff could return to work and that she was to do so on October 22, 1984. Plaintiff was also advised that her workers' compensation benefits would stop on October 19, 1984. Plaintiff told Linke that her physicians had not yet released her to return to work but told her she could return to work if she did not have to lift anything and if she could control the amount of standing or sitting required.

Plaintiff testified that later that month, she received a letter from Janet Poeppelman, St. Joseph's risk manager, requesting that plaintiff schedule a date for her return to work. Plaintiff stated that after receiving the letter from Poeppelman, she attempted to reach her by telephone, but was told that Poeppelman was on vacation. Plaintiff sent a certified letter dated October 25, 1984, to ...

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