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09/21/95 LUCIOUS LEE v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET

September 21, 1995

LUCIOUS LEE, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (TOOTSIE ROLL INDUSTRIES, INC., APPELLEE).



The Honorable Justice McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcmorrow

JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:

This appeal presents the question of whether an off-dutyemployee may recover Workers' Compensation Act benefits for injuries sustained when he was struck by an automobile as he departed from an employer-approved medical clinic at which he received medical treatment for a prior work-related injury.

Background

The claimant, Lucious Lee, was employed as a laborer by the respondent, Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc. On November 7, 1984, the claimant injured his thumb in a work-related accident. Although claimant did not file a worker's compensation claim for this injury, respondent paid for medical treatment arising from the injury. On December 10, 1984, after the end of claimant's normal work shift, he left his place of employment to go to the employer-approved medical clinic for follow-up treatment for his November thumb injury. After the treatment was completed, claimant left the clinic and crossed the street to board a bus. While crossing the street, he was struck by an automobile and injured his knee. Claimant required medical treatment for the knee injury and was unable to work for 10 1/2 weeks.

Claimant sought compensation under the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act) for his knee injury. (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1992).) The parties proceeded to arbitration. Following an evidentiary hearing, the arbitrator denied compensation for the knee injury because, generally, under Illinois law, injuries sustained away from the work-place in an accident during travel to or from work are not compensable under the Act. (See, e.g., Doyle v. Industrial Comm'n (1983), 95 Ill. 2d 103, 107, 69 Ill. Dec. 93, 447 N.E.2d 310.) The arbitrator found that the thumb injury did not contribute to the knee injury, and that the knee injury "did not arise from the course and scope of" the claimant's employment. The Industrial Commission confirmed the arbitrator's denial of compensation. However, the Commission framed the question of law aswhether injuries sustained during travel to or from follow-up medical treatment for prior work-related injuries are compensable under the Act.

Upon judicial review, the circuit court of Cook County confirmed the Commission's decision and held that a denial of compensation in the facts of this case was not contrary to law or against the manifest weight of the evidence. The circuit court found that the claimant failed to show that he had been performing an act reasonably incident to a duty of his employment at the time of the injury. The circuit court also determined that there was no causal connection between the work-related thumb injury and the subsequent knee injury, and that the claimant's injury did not occur either at his place of employment or at a place away from the job-site to which the claimant was sent by his employer to perform a duty of his employment.

The Industrial Commission division of the appellate court, with one justice dissenting, upheld the denial of compensation. (262 Ill. App. 3d 1108.) The appellate court rejected claimant's argument that an off-duty employee's injury, sustained while returning from medical treatment, was compensable under the Act. The appellate court issued a certificate of importance pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 316. This court granted the claimant's petition for leave to appeal. 145 Ill. 2d R. 315(a).

Analysis

Under the Act, compensable injuries must arise out of and in the course of employment. (820 ILCS 305/1 (West 1992).) Both elements must co-exist in order for an employee's injury to be found compensable. ( Loyola University v. Industrial Comm'n (1951), 408 Ill. 139, 143, 96 N.E.2d 509.) Injuries "arising out of" employment have been defined as those injuries originating in a risk created by a causal connection between the employment and the injury. ( Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1989), 129 Ill. 2d 52, 58, 133 Ill. Dec. 454, 541 N.E.2d 665.) A claimant has the burden of establishing the necessary causal relationship between the employment and the injury. ( Brady v. Louis Ruffolo & Sons Construction Co. (1991), 143 Ill. 2d 542, 548, 161 Ill. Dec. 275, 578 N.E.2d 921.) The claimant may establish this causal connection if the injury occurred while the employee was acting under the direction of the employer, if the injury occurred while the employee was performing an act reasonably incident to an assigned duty of employment, or if the injury occurred while the employee was acting pursuant to a statutory or common law duty while performing duties for his employer. Howell Tractor & Equipment Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1980), 78 Ill. 2d 567, 573, 38 Ill. Dec. 127, 403 N.E.2d 215.

"In the course of" refers to the time, place and circumstances surrounding the injury. ( Scheffler Greenhouses. Inc. v. Industrial Comm'n (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 361, 366, 5 Ill. Dec. 854, 362 N.E.2d 325.) Injuries sustained by employees away from the work-place during travel to and from work are, generally, not compensable. ( Butler Manufacturing Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1981), 85 Ill. 2d 213, 216, 52 Ill. Dec. 623, 422 N.E.2d 625.) However, there is an exception to this general rule for employees whose employment duties require travel away from the work site. ( David Wexler & Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1972), 52 Ill. 2d 506, 510, 288 N.E.2d 420.) Injuries to such employees occur in the course of employment if the employee's conduct, at the time of the accident, was reasonable and the risk of injury was foreseeable. Humphrey v. Industrial Comm'n (1979), 76 Ill. 2d 333, 336, 29 Ill. Dec. 464, 392 N.E.2d 21.

In this appeal, claimant contends that his knee injury is compensable because the injuries he sustained during travel from employer-provided medical treatment for work-related injuries arise out of and in the course of his employment. Claimant makes two arguments in support of this contention. First, claimant asserts that the accident occurred while he was performingan act reasonably incident to an assigned duty of his employment. Second, claimant argues that "but for" the prior work-related injury to his thumb, the knee injury would not have occurred.

We consider first whether claimant's knee injury occurred while the claimant was performing an act reasonably incident to his employment. According to claimant, his employer's instruction that he procure treatment at the clinic designated by his employer rendered his travel to the clinic an incident of his employment duties.

The Commission considered and rejected claimant's argument. The Commission concluded that the claimant was neither acting at the direction of his employer nor performing an act reasonably incident to his employment at the time of the knee injury. Where there is conflicting evidence, we will not disturb the Commission's factual determinations unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. ( Phelps v. Industrial Comm'n (1979), 77 Ill. 2d 72, 75, 31 Ill. Dec. 814, 394 ...


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