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06/07/96 JERRY STAPLETON v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION

June 7, 1996

JERRY STAPLETON, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (PEABODY COAL COMPANY, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 94-MR-143. Hon. Richard A. Aguirre, Judge, presiding.

Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court: Rakowski, Colwell, and Holdridge, JJ., concur. Justice Rarick, concurring in part and dissenting in part:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccullough

PRESIDING JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the opinion of the court:

Claimant Jerry Stapleton appeals from an order of the circuit court of St. Clair County confirming a decision of the Illinois Industrial Commission (Commission) denying claimant's claim for benefits due to an injury to his right knee. The respondent employer is Peabody Coal Company.

The arbitrator awarded claimant $416.67 for 51 weeks for temporary total disability and $20,720.65 for necessary first aid, medical, surgical, and hospital services. 820 ILCS 305/8(a), (b) (West 1994). The Commission reversed, finding the injury to be an idiopathic fall and that claimant failed to prove it resulted from an increased risk of harm associated with his employment.

The issues are whether (1) the Commission's decision that claimant failed to prove an accident arising out of his employment was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (2) the procedure whereby the Commission makes original findings of fact without taking testimony (see 820 ILCS 305/19(e) (West 1994)) is a violation of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution. We affirm.

The evidence presented at arbitration will not be set forth in detail.

Claimant's application for adjustment of claim alleged an injury on May 12, 1992. On that form, in response to the inquiry of "How did Accident or Illness occur (Type)?," claimant responded, "Walking, left knee gave way and twisted right knee."

At the arbitration hearing, Robert Johnson and Merle Schuessler, fellow employees of claimant, testified that on May 12, 1992, near the end of the meal break at about 4:30 a.m., claimant fell while returning to work. Neither saw claimant fall.

Claimant testified that, prior to May 12, 1992, he had been off work with injuries to his left knee. On February 14, 1991, he stepped off a scoop, fell, and injured the left knee. He was off work until October 28, 1991. On January 22, 1992, he slipped while carrying a bucket of water and again injured the left knee. He returned to work on May 11, 1992. Because of these other two injuries, he wore a brace on his left knee.

With respect to the May 12, 1992, injury, claimant was taken to Sparta Hospital emergency room and was later treated by Dr. Richard Morgan. At the emergency room, he told the nurse and doctor what happened. On May 13, 1992, when he saw Morgan, he told him what happened. Claimant was referred to respondent's exhibit No. 2, an injured employee report dated May 22, 1992, which he signed. In response to the question "How did the accident happen?," Claimant wrote, "Knee gave way and Fell."

On redirect examination, claimant was asked what he told Morgan as to how the injury occurred. Claimant testified: "I was walking back to my work area, and I really can't say what happened. I can't say what caused me to fall. All I know is I fell and--uh--hurt my right knee." There was some question concerning Morgan's report about whether claimant had fallen, but claimant went to Morgan and corrected him about that. Morgan corrected the medical history after that. Claimant identified petitioner's exhibit No. 3, which was an employee confirmation of work-related injury report completed on the day of injury. He did not fill it out but signed it after reading it. In the area explaining how the injury occurred, the report stated, "left leg gave way while getting around debris--Fell injuring both knees."

The emergency room report for Sparta Hospital dated May 12, 1992, included a history taken by a nurse in which claimant denied injury to either knee and stated the right knee just twisted and "it went out from under him." The doctor's notation on that report indicated claimant's left knee "gave out unexpectedly--hurt Rt. knee--stumbling to catch balance."

Morgan, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that he first saw claimant for this injury on May 13, 1992. The history which Morgan recorded in his notes for that date was that claimant had just been back to work two days following the injuries to the left knee. He was working around a power box and talking to a fellow employee on the morning of May 12 when he felt the immediate onset of pain in his right knee. Claimant did not remember falling or losing his footing but just experienced the onset of pain. Claimant said he thought something had hit him, looked down, and did not see anything. Claimant said the pain caused ...


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