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March 28, 1996


Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 95MR74. Honorable Donald M. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication May 6, 1996. As Corrected August 26, 1996.

Honorable Philip J. Rarick, J., Honorable John T. McCULLOUGH, P.j., Honorable Thomas R. Rakowski, J., Honorable Michael J. Colwell, J., Honorable William E. Holdridge, J., Concurring. Justice Rarick delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rarick

The Honorable Justice RARICK delivered the opinion of the court:

Claimant, Clinton Price, sought benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1992)) for injuries sustained while in the employ of the Sangamon County Sheriff's Department (employer). Price was employed as a civil process server. On April 27, 1992, he injured his neck and back when he fell while pursuing a burglary suspect.

Prior to his April 27, 1992, accident, Price had experienced neck and shoulder problems. On April 10, 1989, Price underwent a computerized tomography (CT) scan which revealed a posterior prolapse of the C4-C5 and C5-C6, and a posterior and left posterior prolapse of the C5-C6 disc of approximately three millimeters magnitude which compressed the thecal sac anterior and on the left anteriorly. An electromyogram (EMG) revealed right C5 radiculopathy.

On April 27, 1989, Price was seen by a consultant, Dr. Edward Trudeau, who, after reviewing Price's records and conducting an examination, indicated that if Price's discomfort continued or if his condition did not improve, he should be referred for neurosurgical evaluation.

In March 1992, Price saw Dr. Joseph Maurer again complaining of neck and shoulder pain. A CT scan revealed a posterior osteophyte formation at C5 and C6 which extended into the spinal canal and the C5-C6 neural foramina bilaterally. The scan revealed no disc bulge or herniation. An EMG revealed left C6 radiculopathy. On April 13, 1992, Dr. Maurer's office contacted Price and informed him of the results of the tests and that if he continued to experience pain Dr. Maurer would refer him to a surgeon.

Price's accident occurred on April 27, 1992. At the time he experienced a dull pain that was not severe. That evening the pain in his neck, shoulders, and back worsened and he had trouble sleeping. Price continued to experience pain and have trouble sleeping, and saw Dr. Maurer again on May 7, 1992. At that time he denied suffering any injury. Dr. Maurer referred Price to Dr. Hayner, a surgeon. Price's pain continued to worsen, and he went to the emergency room at St. Joseph's Hospital that evening.

Price saw Dr. Hayner on May 8, 1992. The history he gave Dr. Hayner was one of intermittent problems with his neck for the previous four years and severe pain in his neck and arm during the last month. Again he did not mention any accident or injury.

Price was admitted to Doctors Hospital on May 8, 1992. On May 12, 1992, he underwent an anterior cervical diskectomy and fusion of C5-C6 on the left. The operative report indicates that in addition to the disc herniation, a piece of free-floating disc was removed. Price's hospital records indicate that he denied any injury.

At the arbitration hearing, Price testified that he told Dr. Maurer about his April 27, 1992, accident, although he stated he was having trouble remembering. He also testified that he did not remember denying any injury to Dr. Maurer or the staff at Doctors Hospital. He did not remember whether he told Dr. Maurer about his injury.

In his evidence deposition, Dr. Maurer testified that he was unaware that Price had suffered any injury on April 27, 1992, until he received an accident report from Price's attorney. After reviewing the report Dr. Maurer testified that the accident could have aggravated Price's preexisting condition. On cross-examination Dr. Maurer stated that the problems he saw in Price during his May 7, 1992, visit were the same as he saw on the March 20, 1992, visit. Dr. Maurer acknowledged that he did not know whether Price's fall aggravated his condition. Dr. Maurer also acknowledged that there was no way to tell whether Price's condition was permanent.

The arbitrator denied compensation, finding that while Price had suffered an accident on April 27, 1992, his condition of ill-being was related to events prior to that date. The Industrial Commission (Commission) reversed the decision of the arbitrator, finding that Price's condition of ill-being had been aggravated by his April 27, 1992, accident. Noting that a medical opinion was not necessary to establish causation, the Commission found that Price's own testimony and medical records established a "chain of events" demonstrating a causal connection. The Commission also found that while Dr. Maurer equivocated on the question of causation, he did testify that Price's fall could have caused disc herniation. The Commission further found that Dr. Hayner's finding of a free-floating body in the disc, which had not shown up on previous CT scans, was ...

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