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Bennett Auto Rebuilders v. Industrial Commission

July 13, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit, Court of Cook County, Illinois No. 96 L 051034 Honorable Joanne L. Lanigan Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge

JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the Opinion of the court:

Claimant, Douglas C. Siegele, filed a claim pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (the Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq.) (West 1996)) seeking compensation for a low back injury he sustained on October 12, 1993, while employed by Bennett Auto Rebuilders (the employer).

The arbitrator found that claimant sustained accidental injuries, which arose out of and within the course of his employment, and which were causally connected to his October 12, 1993, accident. The arbitrator awarded claimant temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, medical expenses, and denied his request for penalties. Pursuant to section 8(a) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 1996)), the arbitrator ordered the employer to provide written authorization for claimant to undergo a surgical procedure prescribed by orthopaedist Dr. George Miz.

The Illinois Industrial Commission (the Commission) affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The circuit court of Cook County confirmed the Commission's decision.

On October 12, 1993, while claimant performed a front end alignment on a vehicle for the employer, he felt a snap in his low back. He immediately experienced pain throughout his left side, mainly in the area of his left groin and low back. He sought emergency room treatment at St. Francis Hospital (St. Francis) in Blue Island, Illinois. He was given pain medication and advised to see a physician if his pain did not subside.

Thereafter, claimant began a course of treatment with Dr. Roy Lacey through March 9, 1994. Although he underwent physical therapy, it failed to either improve or alleviate his pain. An MRI of his low back revealed disc degeneration at L5-S1; small left foramina disc herniations at L3-L4 and L4-L5; and moderate left paracentral disc herniation at L5-S1.

In December 1993, Dr. Lacey referred claimant to general surgeon Dr. Kenneth Anderson, who diagnosed him with a pulled groin muscle and found no evidence of a hernia. On December 11, 1993, Dr. Lacey released claimant to return to work with the light-duty restrictions of lifting no more than 20 pounds and no prolonged standing or bending until his return appointment on December 27, 1993.

In February 1994, Dr. Lacey referred claimant to neurologist Dr. Soo In Lee. Although Dr. Soo In Lee's exam of claimant produced normal and unremarkable results, he did find pain distribution into the L2 area of claimant's left side, and he recommended physical therapy.

Also in February 1994, and at the employer's request, claimant was examined by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sid John Shafer. Dr. Shafer examined claimant again on August 1, 1994, and on June 5, 1995. He concluded that claimant suffered a left groin strain, and was fit to return to work without the need for any additional medical treatment or surgery.

In April 1994, claimant was seen by Dr. Miz. Claimant underwent additional physical therapy with no improvement. In July 1994, claimant underwent a CT scan and myelogram that confirmed his previous MRI findings, and Dr. Miz diagnosed him with significant herniations in his low back at L5-S1 and L3-L4. Dr. Miz prescribed a surgical lumbar microdiscectomy to both of claimant's affected levels in his low back. The employer refused to authorize such surgical procedure, and claimant has not been released to return to work.

Claimant attempted to return to light-duty work in August 1994. On August 4, 1994, claimant maintains that the employer sent him home, as there was no work available. On August 5, 1994, claimant again reported to work and was told by the employer's president, Michael McCann (McCann) that documentation would be necessary before he would be allowed to return to work.

McCann testified that on August 5, 1994, claimant reported to work without any tools; said that he did not know why he was there; and indicated that he could not perform any work. McCann stated that he had light-duty work available, and that he would have assigned someone to do any necessary lifting for claimant. McCann testified further that he was unaware of the name of claimant's treating physician, his physical restrictions, the fact that he was taking medication, and the fact that surgery was recommended as the only means to alleviate his pain.

The employer offered surveillance videotape evidence wherein Alan Brooks (Brooks) recorded claimant on August 23, 1994, and September 21, 1994. Brooks acknowledged that he was not a physician; could not tell if claimant was in pain or on pain medication; and was unaware of any restrictions claimant might have been under at the time the videotape was made. The arbitrator viewed 15-20 minutes of the 12 hour video tape, which showed claimant reaching down and picking up a ...

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