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Knox County YMCA v. Industrial Commission

February 18, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Knox County. No. 98 MR 18 Honorable James B. Stewart, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell


Claimant, Anita Williamson, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1992)) alleging that she sustained injuries on December 14, 1993, while in the employ of respondent, Knox County YMCA. The arbitrator found that claimant's injuries did not arise out of and in the course of claimant's employment by respondent. The Industrial Commission (Commission) reversed. On judicial review, the circuit court of Knox County confirmed the Commission's decision.

On appeal, respondent contends that the Commission erred in finding that claimant's injuries arose out of her employment. We affirm. The record reveals the following relevant facts. In December 1993, claimant was 49 years old. She was employed as a PALS site director for respondent. Claimant's duties required her to watch the children of working parents during the day. During the academic year, when school was not in session, claimant would conduct the PALS program at the Knox County YMCA. However, when school was in session, the PALS program would take place off-site.

On December 14, 1993, claimant was scheduled to work the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. shift. On that particular date, the PALS program took place at a local school. Following her shift, respondent required claimant to attend a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class at the Knox County YMCA. The CPR class was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. No time was allotted between the end of claimant's shift and the beginning of the CPR class. Therefore, claimant stopped at a restaurant on the way to the YMCA. Claimant purchased a sandwich and a large soft drink at the restaurant.

The CPR class was held on the second floor of the YMCA building. Claimant attended the class for approximately ten or fifteen minutes before being informed that she could leave. Claimant sustained her injuries as she was descending a staircase to the first floor on her way out of the YMCA building.

At the hearing on her application for adjustment of claim, claimant testified that the stairwell was well-lit and had railings on both sides of the hallway. There was a runner on each stair. According to claimant, the runners were in "good shape."

At the time of her fall, claimant was wearing tennis shoes. She was holding the soft drink she had purchased for dinner in one hand and her purse in the other. Claimant described her purse as a "good size, but smaller than a gym bag." Claimant testified that she normally leaves her purse in the car. However, on the subject date, she took the purse with her to hold paper and a pen that she needed for the CPR class. In explaining how she fell, the following discussion took place:

"[Claimant]: I got down to the stairs, and I thought I was down and I could walk right off, to my knowledge that's what happened. Arbitrator Neal: You were at the very bottom and you thought there was another step?

[Claimant]: And I thought I was done. I thought the steps were done.

[Claimant's Attorney]: I don't think--I think what the arbitrator's question was--and I don't think you necessarily understood that--I think what she is saying, you were at the bottom and you didn't realize you were at the bottom, or were you like on two stairs up and you thought you were at the bottom?

[Claimant]: I was two stairs up and I thought I was at the bottom." As a result of the fall, claimant sustained a rupture to the left quadriceps tendon. On January 14, 1994, Dr. Myron Stachniw performed surgery to repair the rupture. After the surgery, claimant used a walker to ambulate. Claimant testified that because she was unable to bear weight on her injured leg, she used her hands to support herself while using the walker. As a result, claimant began experiencing pains in her arms and numbness in the first three fingers on each of her hands. Claimant eventually underwent carpal tunnel surgery on each hand to resolve the pain and numbness she was experiencing.

On cross-examination claimant admitted that she was familiar with the staircase because she worked in the YMCA building on days when school was not in session and during the summer. Claimant also acknowledged that there was nothing on the stairs that made her fall, and that as far as she knew, the stairs were not defective.

Admitted into evidence was a letter from Dr. Stachniw opining that claimant's carpal tunnel syndrome was a direct result of walking aids necessitated by the injury claimant sustained at the YMCA. Respondent submitted a letter from a Dr. David E. Conner. Dr. Conner related that he has not observed ...

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