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June 16, 1994


Appeal from Circuit Court of Saline County. No. 93-MR-87. Honorable C. David Nelson, Judge Presiding.

Woodward, McCULLOUGH, Rakowski, Slater, Rarick

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Woodward

JUSTICE WOODWARD delivered the opinion of the court:

Claimant, Paul Oxford, filed an application for adjustment of claim, pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) Therein he alleged brain injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment with Boyd Brothers, Inc. (the employer). After a hearing, the arbitrator entered a decision which found that claimant was permanently and totally disabled and that he was entitled to 15 1/7 weeks of temporary disability and $9,069.22 for necessary and reasonable medical expenses. The Industrial Commission (Commission) adopted and affirmed the arbitrator's decision, and the circuit court confirmed the Commission's decision. This timely appeal followed.

The employer raises three issues, namely, (1) the Commission erred in finding that claimant sustained an injury arising out of and in the course of his employment; (2) the Commission erred in finding that claimant was totally and permanently disabled; and (3) the Commission erred in finding that claimant's medical expenses were causally connected to the subject accident.

At the February 19, 1992, arbitration hearing, the following evidence was adduced. As of the hearing date, claimant was 58 years old with a ninth grade education. He served in the Army from 1950 to 1953, during which time he earned his G.E.D. Following his discharge, claimant began working as a mechanic and heavy equipment operator. He continued this type of employment until the date of the subject accident, prior to which he had not experienced any significant physical problems.

Claimant testified that on June 14, 1985, he was engaged for several hours in assembling a 350- to 400-pound Caterpillar radiator, which was used in a "dirt scoop." The radiator was suspended on a chain so that claimant could attach side shields, each of which weighed between 100 and 150 pounds. To attach a shield, claimant had to lift it into place and hold it steady with one hand, while using the other hand to attach the bolts, which secured it. As he did this, the radiator tended to rotate toward him, complicating his task. Consequently, claimant used his head to steady the radiator. At one point during his assembly of the radiator, claimant experienced extensive numbness on his left side and also became dazed and befuddled. He told his shop foreman that something was wrong and that he had to go home.

Claimant has little recollection of the following days, during which his left side numbness and severe headaches persisted. On June 18, 1985, claimant was examined by his family physician, Dr. Andrew Cserny, who referred him to Dr. William Madauss. He was hospitalized by Dr. Madauss at Welborne Hospital in Evansville, Indiana. The record shows that claimant was hospitalized from June 20, to June 23, 1985. Claimant stated that he continued to experience numbness, severe headaches, and memory lapses in the following months.

Dr. Cserny told claimant in early September 1985 that he could return to light work. Claimant stated that in the heavy construction industry there are no such jobs. Claimant attempted to perform some household tasks but found that he would drop things and, on occasion, fall for no apparent reason. He was often disoriented and would forget where he was, even in familiar surroundings.

Claimant attempted to return to work in April 1986. He reportedto his union hall and was sent to work at Superior Structure. Claimant was unable to hold objects with his left hand. On one occasion, a grinder he was operating fell from his grasp and almost cut off one of his toes. On another occasion, he was transporting a battery, which fell from his hands and broke. Further, he attempted to work a backhoe but lacked the coordination to operate it. He was then assigned to a roller (asphalt compactor), which was a simple machine to control. Claimant, nevertheless, lost control of the roller several times, the last being when the roller tipped over on its side. Claimant was not injured but was taken off this job and put to work on a bulldozer. Again, he was unable to operate the machine successfully. After this, claimant was laid off. While returning home after this layoff, claimant became completely disoriented and was unable to return home without the aid of a friend. Since April 1986, he has not looked for other employment.

Claimant stated that, as of the arbitration hearing date, he continued to have periods of disorientation. He did not drive unless someone went with him. Since 1986, Dr. Warren Tuttle has been his primary physician.

Barbara Oxford, claimant's wife, testified that, prior to the subject accident, claimant's health had been good. She described his problems thusly:

"He has trouble remembering. He'll try to make a phone call and can't remember the number. He used to be real good at numbers, and he can't remember numbers now. He drops things. He falls. He'll be walking along on flat ground and just all of a sudden, down he goes and he doesn't realize he is going to fall so he doesn't even try to catch himself, and he just generally doesn't do too much. He can't do any lifting ...

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