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Poore v. Industrial Commission

September 08, 1998

PAUL POORE, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (AUTO PARTS UNLIMITED, APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rakowski

IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FOURTH DISTRICT

Industrial Commission Division

Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County

No. 93MR125

Honorable John K. Greanias, Judge Presiding.

Claimant, Paul Poore, filed a petition for review pursuant to sections 8(a) and 19(h) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/8(a), 19(h) (West 1996)), requesting that the Industrial Commission (the Commission) modify a previous decision. Specifically, claimant asked the Commission to increase his permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, grant him additional temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, and award him an additional reimbursement for medical expenses. The Commission granted claimant's request for further reimbursement for medical expenses and denied claimant's requests for an increase in PPD benefits as well as an additional award of TTD benefits. Claimant appealed to the circuit court of Macon County, which confirmed the Commission. We affirm the denial of PPD benefits, but we reverse the denial of additional TTD benefits and remand for further proceedings.

I. FACTS

On January 8, 1988, claimant sustained severe burns arising out of and in the course of his employment with Auto Parts Unlimited (employer). Claimant suffered burns over 46% of his body, covering the majority of claimant's lower body and extremities. On April 21, 1990, the arbitrator awarded petitioner TTD benefits of $160 per week for 85 1/2 weeks pursuant to section 8(b) of the Act as well as PPD benefits of $144 per week for 250 weeks for claimant's permanent loss of 50% of a man as a whole pursuant to section 8(d)(2) of the Act. 820 ILCS 305/8(b), 8(d)(2) (West 1996). Both parties appealed to the Commission, and, on February 26, 1991, the Commission modified the arbitrator's award, awarding claimant TTD benefits for 76 5/7 weeks instead of 85 1/2 weeks. Neither party appealed this determination.

After the Commission's decision, claimant still required additional medical treatment for the burns he sustained in 1988. The back side of claimant's left calf developed a neuroma and an ulceration. Dr. Ernest Clyde Smoot III, claimant's plastic surgeon, corrected this problem in December 1990.

In addition, as a result of the treatment of claimant's burns, his left heel no longer met the ground when he walked, causing claimant to walk on his toes instead of his entire left foot. Claimant's abnormal gait caused sores and calluses to develop on the bottom of his left foot. Consequently, claimant limped and was in constant pain due to his condition.

Dr. Smoot referred claimant to Dr. John R. Fisk, an orthopedic surgeon, to address claimant's left heel condition. Dr. Fisk determined that claimant suffered from an equinus contracture of the left ankle, or in other words, claimant's Achilles tendon had "shortened." This condition decreased dorsiflexion by 18 degrees. Because claimant was falling often as well, Dr. Smoot also referred claimant to Dr. Gelber, a neurologist. Having determined that claimant's problem was mostly mechanical and not neurological, Dr. Gelber quit treating claimant, and claimant returned to Dr. Fisk for treatment.

Dr. Fisk initially attempted to cure claimant's condition by using casts to stretch the Achilles tendon. However, because the casts excessively irritated claimant's leg, claimant opted to undergo surgery, which was successful.

Dr. Fisk asserted that, after recovery from the surgery, claimant had a normal gait. Similarly, Dr. David J. Fletcher testified that the tendon surgery increased the range of motion of claimant's left foot. He also opined that claimant's disability status had not changed from the original arbitration of his claim, although claimant testified that his problems have recurred. Dr. Fisk, Dr. Smoot, and Dr. Fletcher all agreed that claimant's tendon condition and the subsequent need for surgery were causally related to claimant's burn accident.

The Commission did not make any findings regarding the time span that claimant was totally incapacitated due to the above treatments. However, the evidence shows that Dr. Gelber first released claimant from work in February 1991 and that Dr. Fisk believed claimant was physically able to return to work on August 5, 1991. The record also shows that, ...


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