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Vill v. Industrial Commission

August 04, 2004



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


The claimant, Margaret Vill, appeals from an order of the circuit court confirming a decision of the Industrial Commission (Commission), denying her benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2002)), for injuries she allegedly sustained while in the employ of the Loyola University Medical Center (Loyola). For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing.

The claimant was employed as a security officer at Loyola. Her duties required her to make rounds at Loyola's medical facility in Maywood, Illinois.

On April 2, 2002, the claimant was scheduled to work from 2:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. According to the claimant, she drove to Loyola in her own car, arriving at Loyola's parking Lot No. 15 at approximately 1:45 p.m. She stated that Lot No. 15 is the only parking lot in which security personnel were permitted to park; a fact which was verified by the claimant's supervisor, Richard Wilson. This particular parking lot was designated for use by Loyola's employees, visitors to the hospital, and patients.

The claimant testified that Lot No. 15 was more crowded than usual when she arrived on April 2, 2002. She chose to park in a space near the administration building where she was to report for work. According to the claimant, the parking space was narrow due to a sports utility vehicle (SUV) which was parked in the space to the left, positioned near the yellow line which separated the two spaces. The claimant testified that, when she parked, there was approximately eight inches between the left side of her vehicle and the SUV and that the distance between her vehicle and the one parked to the right was about six inches.

The claimant stated that, before she attempted to exit her vehicle, she picked up her uniform, belt and lunch from the right front seat. She testified that she then tried to open her car door, but it would only open "half a foot or so, or a foot." She squeezed out of the vehicle when, in her words, "I twisted my knee, and my foot got caught in like a dent in the floor, in the ground." When asked why she twisted her knee, the claimant stated, "[b]ecause I had to twist around like this to get out of the door, and I still had all my stuff inside of the car." She went on to state that she stepped in a crevice in the parking lot and she identified a photo showing a crack in the parking lot surface where she testified that she caught her left foot. According to the claimant, "the ankle twisted and the knee twisted." On cross-examination, the claimant admitted that she twisted her knee before her foot hit the ground.

The claimant testified that she did not fall to the ground. Rather, she was able to hang on to the side of her car. Although she was feeling "a little bit of pain, but not that much," the claimant decided to go to work. When she arrived at the administration building, the claimant punched in and attended a scheduled briefing. She did not inform her supervisor of the incident in the parking lot. After the briefing, the claimant was taken by bus to her assigned station where she was to "walk the hospital ensuring everything is okay."

According to the claimant, her leg started to hurt approximately four hours after she started working. She testified that, when she took off her shoe, she noticed that her leg, foot and ankle were swollen and black and blue in color. Thereafter, the claimant went to Loyola's emergency room.

Various histories are contained in Loyola's emergency room records. The initial report states: "Fall in parking lot today." The nursing flowsheet records the following: "states was getting out of car at administration building fell landed on L knee." The physician's record states: "pt. was exiting car today, foot got caught, fell on knee & twisted. Pt. fell out door and hit head on car next door."

Richard Wilson, the claimant's supervisor on the day of the incident, testified that, when he learned that the claimant was in the emergency room, he went there to interview her. According to Wilson, the claimant told him that "when she got to work about 1:45, that she stepped out of her vehicle and twisted her knee and hurt her toe." He testified that the claimant never told him about a crevice in the parking lot. Wilson stated that he completed and Employee Occurrence Report in which he wrote that the claimant "step[ed] out of car, twisted knee, hurt middle toe on left foot."

While at the emergency room, x-rays were taken of the claimant's left leg, knee, and foot. The radiologist reports of those x-rays reveal, inter alia: "a[n] oblique fracture of the mid shaft of the third proximal phalanx with minimal overriding of the medial displacement of the fracture fragment" and "small joint effusion". The claimant testified that she was given "Tylenol 3" for the pain, told to return the following Monday to see Dr. Zaffer, and then released.

The claimant saw Dr. Zaffer as instructed. Dr. Zaffer examined the claimant and diagnosed a fracture of one of her toes and an ankle sprain. He ordered an MRI of the claimant's left knee which was done on April 15, 2002. A report of that exam notes the following findings: a tear of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus; a moderate amount of knee joint effusion; a thinning of the lateral patellar cartilage, with degenerative ...

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