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ABB C-E Services v. Industrial Commission

October 11, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Hardin County. No. 99-MR-4 Honorable David L. Underwood, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rarick

Claimant, John Haney, sought benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1994)) for injuries sustained while in the employ of ABB C-E Services (ABB). Haney was employed by ABB as a carpenter and a millwright. On September 16, 1995, Haney was working on his hands and knees when a 16-inch cylindrical brass bar weighing between nine and ten pounds fell approximately 40 feet and struck Haney on the lower back. He was taken to the emergency room and advised to follow-up with his family physician, Dr. Sunga. Dr. Sunga treated him until December 7, 1995. Based upon the results of an MRI, Dr. Sunga referred Haney to Dr. Meriwether, a neurosurgeon.

Dr. Meriwether treated Haney from October 20, 1995, through December 1, 1995. After a month of diagnostic tests, Dr. Meriwether recommended surgery.

Mary Sandine, a company case manager, requested that Haney undergo an independent medical examination by Dr. Gregory Loomis. Haney saw Dr. Loomis on January 12, 1996. Dr. Loomis concluded that Haney had a pre-existing spinal stenosis in his lumbar spine which had become symptomatic as a result of the work accident. Dr. Loomis also recommended surgery and on February 5, 1996, performed a bilateral decompressive lumbar laminectomy at the L4-5 level. Haney suffered complications that required two additional surgeries, on February 22 and March 6, 1996.

On July 2, 1996, Haney underwent a functional capacity valuation. It was determined that Haney could perform at the medium-heavy physical demand level for an eight-hour day.

Haney attempted to do some light work around his farm. At this time he was on pain mediation, including Lortab, a class 3 narcotic. While on this medication, Haney noted that his speech was affected, his reflexes were slower, and he often seemed drowsy or depressed.

Haney saw Dr. Loomis again on August 23, 1996. He told Dr. Loomis that it was becoming almost impossible for him to do things around the farm. Dr. Loomis renewed Haney's Lortab prescription, noting, "I think he is going to remain and be 100% disabled."

Investigators hired by ABB performed surveillance of Haney and obtained videotapes of him working around his farm on August 27 and 28, 1996. Haney was seen bent over the hood of a truck performing maintenance for about 40 minutes. He was also seen lifting parts and carrying them to the back of the truck.

On September 20, 1996, Dr. Loomis released Haney, finding him to be at maximum medical improvement. Haney returned to his job in October 1996. His duties were to prepare scaffolds, which required him to climb the scaffolding. By the end of the day, Haney was in severe pain. Halfway through the second day, Haney had to take a Lortab for pain. He told his supervisor that working on a scaffold while taking such medication made him nervous, and he left work.

Haney saw Dr. Loomis again on October 23, 1996, and told him about his difficulties on the job. Dr. Loomis stated that working while taking such mediation was contraindicated: "[Haney] should not be taking that medicine and working on any elevated platform or running machinery ***. My overall impression is that [Haney] is not going to be able to return to this type of work ever again. I feel he is 100% disabled from this type of work[,] which is essentially his entire livelihood." Dr. Loomis noted that federal regulations prohibited the continuation of narcotic-based prescriptions and suggested that Haney needed to move to vocational rehabilitation or a pain management program as an alternative.

Haney saw Dr. Loomis again on December 3, 1996. In a December 5, 1996, letter to Sandine, Dr. Loomis opined that the July 2, 1996, functional capacity evaluation did not reflect Haney's capabilities because he was taking some high-dose analgesics at the time. Dr. Loomis reiterated his opinion that Haney was going to be totally disabled from any job that he previously had. Dr. Loomis stated that Haney would not be able to lift more than 10 to 15 pounds, would not be able to sit more than an hour or two without severe pain, and would not be able to do any twisting, turning, bending, stretching, or repetitive movement of his lower spine. Dr. Loomis further stated that Haney would require long-term analgesic narcotic medication which would affect his thinking process, as well as the safety of doing any dangerous work, driving, or operating machinery.

In a February 28, 1997, report, Dr. Loomis noted that Haney's condition had not improved and that he was totally disabled from any type of work.

In a June 20, 1997, letter to Sheila Jarvis, ABB's rehabilitation nurse, Dr. Loomis again stated that Haney was at maximum medical improvement. Dr. Loomis also stated that Haney's condition was worsening. Dr. Loomis felt that Haney was disabled from his regular line of work because he was taking narcotic medication and because of the biomechanics of his injury. Dr. Loomis concluded, "[H]aney is 100% disabled from any work whatsoever."

Haney was examined by Susan Entenberg, a rehabilitation counselor, on July 10, 1997. Based upon her examination, Dr. Loomis's June 20, 1997, report, and Haney's medical records, Entenberg concluded that Haney was not a candidate for vocational rehabilitation and that a stable job market did not exist for him at that time. Entenberg conceded that Haney's description of his physical limitations was not consistent with the findings of the July 2, 1996, functional capacity evaluation. Entenberg testified that based upon the results of the evaluation, Haney would be a ...

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