Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John A. Ward, Judge Presiding.
The Honorable Justice Rakowski delivered the opinion of the court: McCULLOUGH, P.j., and Colwell, Holdridge, and Rarick, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rakowski
The Honorable Justice RAKOWSKI delivered the opinion of the court:
Michele LeFebvre (claimant) filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq. (now 820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1994))) alleging she sustained accidental injuries on November 30, 1984, which arose out of and in the course of her employment with University of Chicago Medical Center (employer). The Industrial Commission (Commission) affirmed the arbitrator's decision that claimant's injuries were not work related. The circuit court confirmed the Commission's determination. The issues on review are (1) whether the arbitrator erred in denying claimant's motion to grant a continuance and reopen proofs; and (2) whether the decision of the Commission was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm.
On November 30, 1984, claimant worked for employer as a radiology records manager. Her duties included handling the X-ray film operations. On Friday, November 30, 1984, claimant and five coemployees were instructed to move 50-pound boxes containing X-ray records from a storage room. After lifting approximately five boxes, claimant noticed a severe pain in her low back. Claimant testified that when she finished supervising the work, she went to her office and called her supervisor, Maria Myrianthopoulos. Claimant said she reported the accident to Myrianthopoulos and asked to leave work early that day. However, Myrianthopoulos denied that claimant called her that day to report the accident.
Claimant did not seek immediate medical attention and returned to work on the following work day, Monday, December 3, 1984. She neither filled out an injury report nor reported to the employee heath service for treatment. She testified that she went to see a chiropractor, Dr. Karen Berk, on December 28, 1984; however, no medical records were submitted from Dr. Berk. On January 4, 1985, claimant saw Dr. Hekmatpanah and allegedly told him that she was injured at work. However, nothing in the medical records indicates a work-related injury. The records merely state:
"This is a 28-year-old lady who works in the x-ray department. She began to have pain in her back about 3-4 weeks ago gradually going down to the posterior aspect of the right leg. As she did more exertion, such as dancing or traveling, the pain became more. Also carrying packages made it worse to the point where the pain became very severe."
On January 6, 1985, Dr. Hekmatpanah admitted claimant to the hospital and performed a lumbar laminotomy and removal of protruded disc. Claimant was released to return to work on March 1, 1985. She worked for employer only until March 4, 1985, at which time she left and went to work for her brother. Claimant did not seek further medical treatment until January 2, 1987, when she noticed a flare-up of back pain while traveling and carrying luggage over the Christmas holidays. As a result, she went to the Cicero-Fullerton Chiropractic Center, where she was examined and received one physical therapy treatment. Although on the "Patient Insurance Information Sheet" claimant checked the "yes" box concerning whether her claim resulted from an on-the-job injury, under "Past Health History/Major Accidents or Falls" claimant merely listed an injury to her head occurring in 1964; she did not list the injury to her back allegedly sustained at work in 1984.
On January 9, 1987, claimant again was examined by Dr. Hekmatpanah and she gave the following history:
"[Claimant] had been doing well and had been very active until this past Christmas season. While traveling, she tried to carry a good deal of luggage. She began to have pain in her back which radiated to the right leg. She has been having pain for the past several days."
From January 16 until March 13, 1987, claimant received acupuncture treatments from Dr. James Lo to help relieve her back pain. On April 22, 1987, Dr. Lo found claimant disabled but indicated that if her condition improved with treatments she could return to work with restrictions. Claimant discontinued treatments based on her disability and financial difficulties. On May 1, 1987, claimant filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Act.
The aforementioned evidence was elicited at a hearing before the arbitrator on April 26, 1991, and on September 6, 1991. On the latter date, when employer rested, claimant's attorney indicated to the arbitrator that he planned to call Freda Davis as a rebuttal witness based on Maria Myrianthopoulos' testimony. The arbitrator responded: "We were supposed to have finished this case today. *** Your witnesses were supposed to be in here today." After discussion concerning the lengthy duration of the case (almost seven years) and the arbitrator's determination in closing proofs that day, the arbitrator denied claimant's request for a continuance.
On September 30, 1991, a hearing was held on claimant's motion to reopen proofs and allow Freda Davis to testify. Attached to the motion was ...