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Roadway Express, Inc. v. Industrial Commission

April 23, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County. No. 02-MR-157 Honorable Joseph F. Beatty, Judge, presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh

[8]  Claimant, Richard Shadden, age 57, sought benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1998)) for injuries he sustained on January 20, 2000, while employed as a dock worker for Roadway Express (employer). The arbitrator found the accident arose out of and in the course of claimant's employment and claimant's condition of ill-being is causally related to the injury sustained on that date. The arbitrator ordered the employer to pay claimant's outstanding medical bills in the amount of $19,458.12, ordered the employer to pay temporary total disability benefits of $494.49 per week for 53 1/7 weeks, and found claimant permanently and partially disabled to the extent of 45% of the man as a whole. The Commission, with one dissent, affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The circuit court of Rock Island reversed the decision of the Commission and remanded for a finding consistent with its opinion that claimant is permanently and totally disabled. On appeal, the employer argues that the circuit court erred in reversing the Commission's determination of the extent of permanent disability; however, we agree with claimant that the judgment of the circuit court is not a final, appealable order, and, thus, the appeal must be dismissed.

[9]  FACTS

[10]   Claimant has an 11th grade education and was employed as a dockworker for approximately 24 years prior to the instant claim. Claimant has a history of back injuries. He admitted to nine prior low back injuries and three prior back surgeries. The surgeries took place in 1979, 1987, and 1989. Claimant settled his 1989 workers' compensation claim for 22 ½ % loss of the man as a whole. After the 1989 surgery, he was released for full-duty work.

[11]   On the date of the accident in question, claimant was loading some skids on a trailer when he slipped on a wet surface between two trailers. He testified that one leg went one way, and the other leg went the opposite direction. He immediately felt pain, clocked out, and went home. Claimant returned to work the next day and reported the incident. The employer sent claimant to the company doctor at the Work Fitness Center. Claimant remained under the care of the company physician for several weeks. Claimant continued to work until February 1, 2000, at which time he was referred to Dr. Ridenour by Jan Coons, a nurse consultant retained by the employer.

[12]   Claimant saw Dr. Ridenour on February 2, 2000. Claimant told Dr. Ridenour that he was in constant pain with pain in his right buttock, radiating down his thigh and into his calf and foot. He said his right ankle was especially weak. Dr. Ridenour reviewed claimant's MRI which showed multiple level upper lumbar laminectomies performed in the past. Dr. Ridenour summed up claimant's condition as follows:

[13]   "Severe denervation throughout the entire right leg. This is chronic in nature. There is now a superimposed L5 type painful radiculopathy with pronounced weakness that has been present ever since January 21 or 22. **** [Claimant's] situation is certainly not straight forward. Because of underlying injuries that he already has, it is highly unlikely that any maneuver, including surgery, will drastically improve his situation."

[14]   Dr. Ridenour opined that a decompression might give claimant modest improvement.

[15]   On February 9, 2000, Dr. Ridenour performed an L4-L5 laminectomy with right L3- L4, L4-L5, L5-S1 lateral recessed decompression on the right side, and a right discectomy at L4-L5. On February 15, 2000, claimant told Dr. Ridenour that the pain in his leg was dramatically reduced since the surgery, and he was feeling much better. On February 29, 2000, Dr. Ridenour wrote the following concerning the claimant's chances of returning to work:

[16]   "I am sincerely doubtful that [claimant] will ever be able to return to heavy work. I suspect that we are going to have to follow a course whereby we try to improve his physical condition as much as possible[,] then ultimately obtain a functional capacity evaluation and try to get him back to work at a much reduced level."

[17]   Dr. Ridenour later prescribed work hardening in an attempt to get claimant back to work.

[18]   On May 4, 2000, Dr. Ridenour noted that claimant "has done a spectacular job of trying to get himself back in condition, and I am very pleased with the progress he has made." However, by August 22, 2000, claimant was complaining of intermittent cramping in his leg, which occasionally became severe and disabling. Dr. Ridenour then prescribed a functional capacities evaluation, which indicated that claimant was capable of light-duty work.

[19]   After the evaluation, Dr. Ridenour and Jan Coons hoped that claimant might still improve his endurance and stability, but Dr. Ridenour thought that claimant was most likely at maximum medical improvement. In September 2000, Dr Ridenour opined that claimant might be able to do sedentary or very light-duty work, but was uncertain whether claimant could do so for eight hours a day and recommended that if claimant was going to try to do light-duty, he work for only four hours per day. Claimant contacted Todd Miller, the employer's personnel manager, and requested a job within Dr. Ridenour's restrictions. The employer refused to accommodate the restrictions. Claimant did not return to work.

[20]   Dr. Ridenour examined claimant on February 22, 2001, and concluded that claimant was "very impaired." Dr. Ridenour did not believe it would be possible for claimant to perform any physical tasks. Dr. Ridenour found that under the circumstances, it would be reasonable ...

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