Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 02MR351. Honorable Robert J. Eggers, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH
On March 27, 1992, claimant filed an application seeking benefits for injuries from employer, Freesen, Inc., pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1992)). On June 20, 2001, an arbitrator concluded that claimant had suffered compensable injuries on November 21, 1991, arising out of and in the course of employment with employer. The arbitrator also found that claimant's seizures, which began on December 2, 1996, were not compensable injuries as they were not causally related to the November 21, 1991, accident. The arbitrator awarded claimant 491 weeks of temporary total disability (TTD) benefits at a rate of $314.92 per week, permanent total disability (PTD) benefits of $314.92 per week for life, and "all medical services" except those related to claimant's seizures.
On June 11, 2002, the Industrial Commission (Commission) reversed the arbitrator's decision on the issue of causation between the accident and claimant's seizures, finding that a causal connection did exist. It modified the TTD benefit award to a period of 424 6/7 weeks at a rate of $478.17 per week and the PTD benefit award to a rate of $478.17 per week for life. The Commission also modified the nonspecific medical-expense award to $84,646.85 and otherwise affirmed the arbitrator's decision.
On July 5, 2002, employer filed an action in the circuit court of Sangamon County, seeking administrative review of the Commission's decision. On October 9, 2002, the court confirmed the finding of a causal relationship between the seizures and the accident. However, the court found no evidence to support the Commission's average weekly wage calculation, on which the awards of TTD and PTD benefits were based. The court remanded the case to the Commission to explain or document its calculation.
On February 4, 2003, the Commission issued a new decision in response to the circuit court's order. On February 28, 2003, employer again filed for administrative review in the circuit court. The court modified the Commission's decision to reflect that the TTD and PTD benefit rates should be $608.41 and $405.81 per week, respectively. On appeal, employer argues that (1) claimant's seizures were not causally related to the November 21, 1991, accident and (2) the average weekly wage calculations by the Commission and the circuit court were improper. On cross-appeal, claimant argues that the court erred in calculating the average weekly wage. We affirm.
Claimant, 42 years old on the date of injury, testified that on November 21, 1991, he was working for employer as a labor foreman at a work site assisting in the demolition of a bridge across the Sangamon River. The temperature was about 20 degrees. Claimant climbed up on one girder and walked out on to an X-brace and was straddling the X-brace when the structure fell down to the river with claimant still on it. On impact, claimant felt his right side hit. He was initially pinned underwater under the girder but was eventually able to free himself. He rose to the surface but went back underwater two or three more times. Other workers pulled him from the water.
Claimant was taken to the emergency room of Memorial Hospital in Springfield. He was diagnosed with a fracture at the L1 vertebrae, total loss of use of his bladder and bowels, and impotence. He was later diagnosed with macular degeneration in his right eye and severe posttraumatic headaches. Three to four days after claimant was admitted to the hospital, he began to see bright flashes of light in his right eye. Prior to the accident, claimant had no eye problems except that he required eyeglasses.
Shortly before August 6, 1996, claimant began having episodes of dizziness. He began to experience a funny taste in his mouth. On December 6, 1996, at about 5 a.m., claimant had a grand mal seizure. An electroencephalogram (EEG), a computed tomography (CT) scan, and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were all negative. In April 1997, claimant had another seizure, which fractured two or three vertebrae. Since that time, claimant has suffered moderate to severe pain between his shoulders in the mid-thoracic area. Following the April 1997 seizure, an EEG gave indications of clinical epilepsy. Claimant has not worked since the date of the accident.
The parties are aware of the medical evidence presented and it will not be reviewed in detail.
On December 4, 1996, claimant was admitted to the hospital for grand mal seizures, which are "very dramatic" seizures. Dr. Joseph Maurer stated that "it is quite possibly that he may have had an occult head injury at the time of his fall that only manifested itself later on." He was not aware of any indications suggesting claimant had any seizure disorder, history of infantile seizures, or other head injuries prior to the accident. From at least August 6, 1996, to the time of the seizure, claimant had been having dizzy spells and more frequent headaches, which were possible signs of a seizure diagnosis. On April 13, 1997, claimant was admitted to the hospital because of another seizure. Dr. Maurer was aware of no other reason other than the fall from the bridge that would have caused the seizures. He concluded that the seizures were a result of complications from the bridge accident. Dr. Maurer opined that, as of the date of his testimony, claimant had reached maximum medical improvement.
The arbitrator found a causal relationship between the accident and claimant's vision problem, bladder and bowel incontinence, bladder infection, headaches, impotence, and back injuries but not with the seizures. He awarded benefits as stated.
On June 11, 2002, the Commission found a causal connection between the accident and claimant's condition of ill-being as a result of his seizure based upon an unbroken chain of events, claimant's multiple headaches and episodes of dizziness, and Dr. Maurer's testimony as to causal connection. The Commission modified the arbitrator's decision as stated. The Commission's calculation of the average weekly wage included overtime earnings at the straight wage rate because the wage records demonstrated that claimant regularly worked overtime. It found that in the 52 weeks prior to the accident, claimant worked 34.6 weeks. Citing section 10 of the Act, it arrived at the average weekly wage as follows: $22,996.59 $1,820.33 (overtime) - $24,816.92/34.6 = $717.25. It concluded that the TTD/PTD rate was $478.17.
On July 5, 2002, employer filed an action for administrative review in the circuit court, which on October 9, 2002, concluded that the Commission's findings as to causal connection were not against the manifest weight of the evidence. As to the average weekly wage, the court found no evidence to support the average weekly wage calculation made by the Commission. It remanded the case ...