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University of Illinois v. Industrial Commission

May 3, 2006

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION, ET AL., (NADINE BURNES, APPELLEE).



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY No. O4 L 051217 HONORABLE RITA M. NOVAK, JUDGE PRESIDING.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

The University of Illinois (University) appeals from a decision of the Circuit Court of Cook County which confirmed a decision of the Industrial Commission (Commission) *fn1 awarding benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2000)) to Nadine Burnes, the claimant. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

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

In August of 1999, the claimant suffered from internal derangement of the right knee with a torn medial meniscus and underwent arthroscopic surgery, consisting of a partial meniscesctimy and a partial synovectomy. The records of Dr. Upendra Patel, the surgeon who performed the August 1999 surgery, reflect that, as of September 13, 1999, the claimant's surgical wound had healed well and that she was "doing much better." Dr. Patel's progress note states that he advised progressive activity but no kneeling.

In approximately October 1999, the claimant was employed by the University as a nurse-midwife. On October 10, 2000, the claimant was seen by Dr. Keith R. Pitchford, complaining of increasing pain in her left knee. Dr. Pitchford's note of that visit indicates that an MRI of the claimant's left knee revealed a posterior medial meniscus tear. Dr. Pitchford recommended arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. On October 12, 2000, the claimant underwent arthroscopic surgery on her left knee, consisting of a partial meniscesctimy and a synovectomy. She returned to work in November 2000.

The claimant testified that, on December 18, 2000, at approximately 8:30 a.m., she parked her car on the third floor of the University's parking structure in an area designated for employees. She exited her vehicle carrying her purse, a bag containing three books, and a crock-pot of food for a mandatory monthly midwife service meeting she was to attend. The claimant testified that she proceeded toward a walkway that passed over the street and connected the third floor of the parking structure with the second floor of the outpatient care facility of the University's hospital. According to the claimant, as she passed through the doorway between the parking structure and the walkway, she tripped on a metal threshold and twisted her right knee. The claimant described the object on which she tripped as a metal strip approximately 12 inches wide which "goes up on an angle" and is about three inches high in the middle. She stated that she felt pain instantly. Nevertheless, the claimant went to the scheduled midwife meeting. She testified that, while she was at the meeting, she placed ice on her knee and kept her leg elevated. At approximately 12:00 p.m., the claimant left the meeting early and went to the University's hospital emergency room.

The records of the claimant's emergency room visit were received in evidence. Karen Harrer, a triage nurse, recorded a history stating that the claimant complained "of low back pain and right medial/posterior knee pain after slipping on ice today." The claimant, however, denied having told Harrer that she slipped on ice. A hand written note contained within the emergency room records states that the claimant tripped coming to the "OCC" building and twisted her right knee and back.

At approximately 1:30 p.m. on December 18, 2000, while the claimant was still in the emergency room, she reported the incident to a University police officer. The officer=s report states that, as the claimant "was walking from the D-1 parking structure into the 948 Building 2nd floor walkway[,] *** [s]he tripped over the metal floor plate with the door that separates D-1 and the 948 walkway." The report also states that the claimant did not fall but, rather, twisted her right knee. The officer noted that he inspected the accident scene and found no abnormality in the area of the doorway.

While the claimant was at the emergency room, x-rays were taken of her right knee which showed early osteoarthritic changes but no evidence of a fracture. According to the emergency room records, the claimant was diagnosed with a low back strain and a knee injury. She was given Tylenol, advised to call for a follow-up appointment, and discharged.

Two or three days after the incident, the claimant sought follow-up care with her family physician, Dr. Michael Foreit. Dr. Foreit commenced a course of conservative treatment, consisting of pain medication and rest. She visited Dr. Foreit four or five times before he referred her to Dr. Pitchford.

Dr. Pitchford ordered an MRI of the claimant=s right knee which was performed on April 4, 2001. A report of that scan suggests a "complex tear involving the medial attachment of the posterior horn of the medial meniscus[,]" a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament, and a small to moderate amount of joint effusion.

When the claimant visited Dr. Pitchford on April 17, 2001, she complained of pain in her right knee. Dr. Pitchford diagnosed a medial meniscus tear and recommended physical therapy.

Dr. Pitchford=s record of the claimant=s visit on May 18, 2001, states that she had been experiencing pain in her right knee since she injured it at work. He noted that the claimant was starting to have "tenderness" laterally which she did not have before. According to the report, the claimant had "patellofemoral symptoms." Dr. Pitchford recommended arthroscopy and a home exercise program.

On September 13, 2001, the claimant underwent arthroscopic surgery on her right knee, consisting of a partial synovectomy with a medial meniscus repair and a debridement of the "ACL." Following the surgery, the claimant remained off of work until November 5, 2001, when she returned to her duties as nurse-midwife. At the arbitration hearing, the claimant testified that ...


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