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Inter-City Products Corp. v. Industrial Commission

November 19, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Randolph County No. 00 MR 60 Honorable Patrick M. Young and William A. Schuwerk, Jr., Judges Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman.


The claimant, David Wright, filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) seeking benefits for injuries he allegedly received while in the employ of Inter-City Products Corp. (Inter-City). The Industrial Commission (Commission) awarded the claimant temporary total disability (TTD) benefits for a period of 8 2/7 weeks ending on September 24, 1991, and permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits for 5% of a man as a whole and ordered Inter-City to pay $260 in medical expenses. On review, however, the circuit court of Randolph County set aside the Commission's decision and remanded the case to the Commission. On remand, the Commission issued a decision in which it awarded the claimant TTD benefits for a period of 200 6/7 weeks, PPD benefits for 25% loss of a man as a whole, and $33,425.70 in medical expenses. On Inter-City's petition for judicial review of the Commission's post-remand decision, the circuit court confirmed the decision. Thereafter, Inter-City filed the instant appeal.

The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing conducted on August 29, 1995.

The claimant was hired to work for Inter-City's predecessor, Snyder General, as a coil bender on or about May 20, 1991. His duties required that he roll coils for heat pumps and air-conditioning units into circles. The claimant testified that some of the coils that he was required to lift weighed up to 70 pounds. After the plant was sold to Inter-City, the claimant continued working there in the same capacity.

According to the claimant, he never had problems with his shoulders or neck prior to being employed by Snyder. After he began working for Snyder, he started to experience an aching in his left shoulder. He recalled an incident in June 1991 when, as he was lifting a coil, he "felt something like a rubber band" in between his neck and his shoulder and stated that he "knew then that something was wrong." On July 24, 1991, several weeks after the plant had been sold to Inter-City, the claimant noticed that his neck, shoulder, arm, and thumb were hurting and that he was unable to keep up with the pace of his normal duties.

On July 29, 1991, the claimant saw his family physician, Dr. Craig W. Furry, complaining of aching in his left shoulder which developed at work. Dr. Furry noted tenderness in the claimant's left shoulder and diagnosed a left shoulder strain. He gave the claimant a slip authorizing him to take off work and scheduled a return visit in 10 days.

When the claimant returned to see Dr. Furry on August 9, 1991, he complained of pain from his left shoulder to his elbow. Although Dr. Furry found no tenderness to palpation, he noted a possible cervical radiculopathy and ordered x-rays of the claimant's cervical spine. Those x-rays, taken on August 10, 1991, revealed a minimal narrowing of the C5-C6 intervertebral space and localized cervical osteoarthritis. According to the x-ray report, no evidence of fracture, dislocation, metastatic destruction, or other significant degenerative change was detected.

The claimant next saw Dr. Furry on August 16, 1991. At that time, he complained of tingling in his left shoulder. Dr. Furry ordered a CT scan of the claimant's cervical spine and recommended that he begin physical therapy. The report of the CT scan, taken on August 19, 1991, notes degenerative spurring involving the left posterior lateral joint between C5 and C6 and states that the possibility of a protruding disc at C5-C6 could not be ruled out, since the protrusion could be obstructed by the degenerative process.

The claimant began physical therapy on August 19, 1991. According to the hospital records, on that date, the claimant gave a history of soreness in his left shoulder which began after he started to work for Snyder. He reported a tingling in his shoulder and an aching from the shoulder to the elbow. The claimant attended 12 physical therapy sessions between August 19 and September 17, 1991, and received treatments which included cervical traction, ultrasound, and megatherm.

The claimant saw Dr. Furry on August 23, 1991, at which time Dr. Furry noted that the claimant's CT scan showed no evidence of a disc problem and referred the claimant to Dr. Robert E. Schultz, Sr., a neurosurgeon.

The claimant next saw Dr. Furry on September 11, 1991. Dr. Furry's note of that visit reflects that the claimant reported pain which was localized in his left shoulder but which did not radiate down his arm. The claimant did not complain of numbness in his arm or finger but did complain of continuing tingling and achiness in his neck and left shoulder.

Dr. Schultz examined the claimant on September 24, 1991, and recorded his impressions as: "C6 radiculopathy - left upper extremity" and "Degenerative disc disease - C5-6." He gave the claimant a prescription for a cervical traction apparatus and prescribed Naprosyn. In his report to Dr. Furry, Dr. Schultz noted his recommendation that the claimant have an EMG and a nerve conduction study of both upper extremities. The tests were never done, however, due to claimant's refusal to have any test which involved needles.

On September 25, 1991, Inter-City terminated the claimant's benefits after the claimant ignored a request by Inter-City's insurance carrier that he see a doctor of its choosing. Thereafter, the claimant received no further medical treatment until August 24, 1992.

At the request of Inter-City, Dr. Daniel Phillips, a board certified neurologist, examined the claimant on January 9, 1992, and reviewed his CT scans and x-rays. According to Dr. Phillips, the claimant related that he began experiencing soreness and left shoulder pain radiating down his arm about one month after he started work as a coil bender but did not report any specific injury. During the examination, the claimant complained of neck and shoulder pain and an aching in his thumb and reported that his hand feels "funny" at times. Dr. Phillips testified that, during the physical examination, the claimant demonstrated full range of motion in the cervical spine, left shoulder, elbow, and wrist. He stated that the claimant's left arm pain did not give a clear dermatomal type reading as might be expected with a radiculopathy and that he found normal strength, no muscle spasm, intact sensation, and equal reflexes. Dr. Phillips further testified that his review of the claimant's x-rays and CT scan revealed a small spur at C5-C6 on the left with some bilateral narrowing at C5-C6. According to Dr. Phillips, a spur is a chronic condition and "wouldn't be related to his [the claimant's] work." Based upon his examination of the claimant and his review of the claimant's CT scan and x-ray, Dr. Phillips concluded that the claimant was capable of working without restrictions and had no residual disability.

The claimant returned to see Dr. Furry on August 24, 1992. According to Dr. Furry's notes of that visit, the claimant informed the doctor that his lawyer had asked him to return. At the August 24 visit, the claimant complained of stiffness in his left arm, left shoulder, and neck. Dr. Furry prescribed ...

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