Appeal from Circuit Court of Cook County Nos. 97L50541; 99L50809 Honorable Alexander P. White, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH
Respondent F & B Manufacturing Company appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County confirming a decision of the Illinois Industrial Commission (Commission) entered following an earlier remand by the circuit court. The claimant in this case is Martha Quintero.
On August 23, 1990, claimant filed an application for adjustment of claim alleging a back injury on July 23, 1990. Following a hearing conducted on March 26, April 23, and May 24, 1996, the arbitrator entered a decision on June 22, 1996, awarding claimant $158.67 per week for 31 weeks for temporary total disability (TTD) and $142.81 per week for 25 weeks for permanent partial disability (PPD) to the extent of 5% of the person as a whole. 820 ILCS 305/8(b), (d)(2) (West 1996). The arbitrator specifically found that (1) claimant was entitled to TTD from July 24 to August 20, 1990, and from August 22, 1990, to February 26, 1991; (2) claimant was not entitled to receive payment for medical expenses relating to care provided by medical service providers beyond the two chains of referral from claimant's two chosen medical service providers, being Treister Orthopaedic Services, Ltd. (Treister Orthopaedic) and Cragin Health Center (Cragin) (820 ILCS 305/8(a)(2), (a)(3) (West 1996)); and (3) the chiropractic care provided by Cragin and the neurological examination by Dr. Aleksandra Stobnicki, to whom claimant was referred by one of the chiropractors at Cragin, were not reasonable and necessary because the services were duplicative of the treatment provided by Treister Orthopaedic. The Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's findings in a decision entered April 18, 1997.
On judicial review (Cook County case No. 97-L-50541), the circuit court affirmed the PPD award, but set aside the findings of duration of TTD and the denial of medical expenses, and remanded to the Commission "for further proceedings" in an order entered by Judge Quinn on March 18, 1998.
On remand, without any additional evidence, and with one commissioner dissenting, the Commission adopted the earlier PPD award and awarded claimant TTD for 61 1/7 weeks from July 24 through August 20, 1990, and from August 22, 1990, through September 30, 1991, and $6,864 in medical expenses, including $2,295 for services rendered by Cragin and $275 for the services of Stobnicki. The dissenting commissioner strongly protested that the circuit court had done nothing more than substitute its judgment for that of the Commission. The Commission decision on remand was entered on July 13, 1999.
Thereafter, respondent sought judicial review in the circuit court (Cook County case No. 99-L-50809, consolidated with 97-L-50541). Claimant appeared pro se in the circuit court. In the second judicial review, Judge White presided. On July 25, 2000, the circuit court determined that the March 18, 1998, order entered by the circuit court in case No. 97-L-50541 was a final order for purposes of appeal and confirmed the July 13, 1999, decision of the Commission following remand. The appeal to this court followed.
The issues raised by respondent all relate to the propriety of the Commission's original decision of April 18, 1997. The respondent asks this court to determine whether the following Commission findings were against the manifest weight of the evidence: (1) that claimant was not entitled to TTD benefits beyond February 26, 1991; (2) that Cragin was the second medical provider chosen by claimant; and (3) the charges for services rendered by Cragin and Stobnicki were not proved to be reasonable and necessary.
Claimant has not filed an appellee's brief. Because the record in this case is simple and the claimed errors are such that the court can easily decide them without the aid of an appellee's brief, we decline to summarily reverse the circuit court decision. First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 133, 345 N.E.2d 493, 495 (1976). We now reverse in part and affirm in part the order of the circuit court entered July 25, 2000; reverse the order of the circuit court entered March 18, 1998; vacate the decision of the Commission entered July 13, 1999; and reinstate the April 18, 1997, Commission decision as modified. We first address whether the March 18, 1998, order of the circuit court was a final order for purposes of appeal. The standard for determining finality set forth in Wilkey v. Illinois Racing Board, 96 Ill. 2d 245, 249-50, 449 N.E.2d 843, 844-45 (1983), applies in administrative review contexts.
In Stockton v. Industrial Comm'n, 69 Ill. 2d 120, 124-25, 370 N.E.2d 548, 550 (1977), the Supreme Court of Illinois held that a circuit court order reversing and remanding a Commission decision is non-final if it allows the Commission to find the claimant entitled to additional TTD for time not yet considered. The circuit court order in Stockton did not limit the Commission's consideration of additional TTD, medical expenses, and the extent of permanent disability. Here, the circuit court's order reversing and remanding the original decision of the Commission found that claimant was entitled to TTD "at least" through September 30, 1991. The Commission could find claimant entitled to TTD beyond that date. In addition, the Commission had not yet determined the reasonableness and necessity of medical expenses incurred by claimant as a result of services rendered by medical service providers that were not within the chain of referrals from Treister and Cragin. The Commission's task was more than simply ministerial. The March 18, 1998, order was non-final, and this court is authorized to review the entire record and determine the propriety of the Commission's original decision and the circuit court's reversal thereof. Stockton, 69 Ill. 2d at 126, 370 N.E.2d at 550-51.
When a Commission decision is reversed because it is contrary to law and on remand the Commission properly applies the law, the Commission decision following remand is given deference over the initial Commission decision. Freeman United Coal Mining Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 188 Ill. 2d 243, 248, 720 N.E.2d 1063, 1067 (1999). However, the Commission decision may also be reversed because the factual findings are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Freeman United Coal Mining, 188 Ill. 2d at 245, 720 N.E.2d at 1065. In this case, the circuit court did not find that the original decision of the Commission was contrary to law. Instead, the reversal was based on the determination that the Commission's factual findings were against the manifest weight of the evidence. When the original Commission decision is reversed because it is against the manifest weight of the evidence, this court initially considers the propriety of the original Commission decision before reviewing the Commission decision entered following remand.
On the merits, we initially address the issue relating to the duration of TTD. The time during which a claimant is temporarily totally disabled is a question of fact for the Commission; the duration of TTD is controlled by claimant's ability to work and her continuation in the healing process; and to be entitled to TTD, claimant must prove not only that she did not work, but that she was unable to work. City of Granite City v. Industrial Comm'n, 279 Ill. App. 3d 1087, 1090, 666 N.E.2d 827, 828-29 (1996). The dispositive test is whether the condition has stabilized, because a claimant is entitled to TTD when a disabling condition is temporary and has not reached a permanent condition. Manis v. Industrial Comm'n, 230 Ill. App. 3d 657, 660, 595 N.E.2d 158, 160-61 (1992), quoting Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 48, par. 138.19(b) (now 820 ILCS 305/19(b) (West 2000)). In determining whether a factual finding of the Commission is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the test is whether the record contains sufficient factual evidence to support the Commission's determination. Beattie v. Industrial Comm'n, 276 Ill. App. 3d 446, 450, 657 N.E.2d 1196, 1199 (1995).
On November 27, 1990, Dr. Chang Sun Kim, a physician with Treister Orthopaedic, found nothing objectively wrong with claimant and recommended that she see a psychiatrist. Dr. Michael Treister discharged claimant on February 26, 1991. When claimant was seen by Dr. Charles Mercier, respondent's examining physician, on April 25, 1991, claimant was not then treating with any physician. Mercier found claimant able to return to unrestricted work. Dr. Marc Levin, a treating neurologist, was of the opinion that claimant was not able to work when he saw her on September 30, 1991.
As stated heretofore, the arbitrator's award extended for 31 weeks to February 26, 1991. The circuit court, in its remand order, found that TTD should extend at least to September 30, 1991, basing its decision upon the testimony of Levin. The contested period ...