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First Assist, Inc. v. Industrial Commission

January 31, 2007



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

Mary Khatri

The claimant, Mary Khatri, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2000)), seeking benefits for injuries she received on January 6, 2000, while in the employ of First Assist, Inc. (First Assist). The Industrial Commission (Commission)*fn1 awarded the claimant benefits, including a weekly wage differential award pursuant to section 8(d)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(d)(1) (West 2000)). The circuit court of Sangamon County confirmed the Commission's decision, and this appeal followed.

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

The claimant commenced her employment with First Assist in June 1991. She was employed as an operating room nurse, and her duties consisted of assisting doctors during surgery, including: handing the doctor instruments; retraction and holding a patient's extremities; washing parts of a patient's body; moving patients from a holding area into the operating room; lifting patients on and off of the operating table; hooking up machinery and equipment; and mixing drugs. According to the claimant, her duties required overhead lifting in a number of the functions she was required to perform.

The claimant testified that, on January 6, 2000, she was transferring a 350-pound patient from the operating room table to a stretcher when she felt a pop in her left shoulder. She stated that she walked to the recovery area, gave a report of the incident, and immediately went downstairs to the Memorial Medical Center emergency room and sought treatment. The claimant was diagnosed as suffering from a left shoulder strain, given pain medication, and advised by the emergency room physician to follow up with an orthopedic doctor if she was not better within a "couple of days."

The claimant sought follow-up treatment from Dr. Mark Greatting on January 10, 2000. Dr. Greatting diagnosed left-shoulder AC joint strain and impingement syndrome, and he prescribed a course of physical therapy. Dr. Greatting authorized the claimant to do light-duty work with no lifting greater than 10 pounds with her left arm and no left-arm activity above shoulder level.

On January 24, 2000, Dr. Greatting administered a steroid injection and ordered an MRI scan of the claimant's left shoulder. The scan was performed at Memorial Medical Center on January 27, 2000. The report of that test states that an abnormal signal was present within the distal most aspect of the supraspinatus tendon, a small effusion was detected, and a tiny amount of fluid was present in the subdeltoid bursa. The remaining tendons about the rotator cuff were found intact.

The claimant testified that she returned to full-duty work on February 14, 2000. According to the claimant, she never performed light-duty work as First Assist was unable to accommodate her restrictions. She stated that, after she returned to work, she experienced pain, numbness, and tingling. The claimant testified that, when the numbness and tingling were bad, she had no strength and would drop things.

During the following months, the claimant continued to treat with Dr. Greatting. The doctor's records reflect that the claimant complained of pain in her left shoulder and tenderness over her AC joint.

Conservative treatment having failed, Dr. Greatting recommended that the claimant undergo a left shoulder arthroscopy with arthroscopic subacromial decompression and a left distal clavicle resection which he performed on August 8, 2000. Dr. Greatting's postoperative diagnosis was left shoulder impingement syndrome with a partial articular surface rotator cuff tear and left acromioclavicular arthritis.

Subsequent to her surgery, Dr. Greatting recommended physical therapy three times per week for three weeks, commencing August 25, 2000. On September 13, 2000, Dr. Greatting prescribed continued physical therapy. The claimant was discharged from physical therapy on November 24, 2000.

On December 6, 2000, the claimant was examined by Dr. Michael Watson at the request of First Assist. He diagnosed impingement syndrome with rotator cuff tendonita. Dr. Watson's report of that examination states that the claimant's injury and subsequent treatment are causally related to her injury at work on January 6, 2000. Dr. Watson was of the opinion that the claimant had not reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) as of that visit, and he recommended that she continue with a home exercise program and gradually return to work in a limited capacity. Dr. Watson prescribed work restrictions, including no lifting of more than 10 pounds, no overhead lifting, and no lifting of patients with her left arm. Dr. Watson wrote that the claimant would need these work restrictions for two to three months, after which she should be able to return to full-duty work.

On December 14, 2000, Dr. Greatting again ordered physical therapy for the claimant. The plan was for three sessions per week for a period of four weeks. However, the claimant attended only one session on December 27, 2000.

The claimant next saw Dr. Greatting on January 11, 2001. The record of that visit reflects that the claimant reported experiencing increased pain during physical therapy. Additionally, she reported the onset of numbness in her left arm, radiating from her shoulder to her fingers. Dr. Greatting recommended that the ...

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