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United Airlines v. Workers' Compensation Commission

January 18, 2011

UNITED AIRLINES,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION CHARLOTTE GRAHAM,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Cook County No. 09L50483 and 09L50485 Honorable Sanjay T. Tailor, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice McCULLOUGH

Workers' Compensation

NOTICE Decision filed 01/18/11.

The text of this decision may be changed or Commission Division

correcte d prio r to the filing o f a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

PRESIDING JUSTICE McCULLOUGH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Hoffman, Hudson, Holdridge and Stewart, concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

On March 31, and April 2, 2003, claimant, Charlotte Graham, filed applications for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2002)), seeking benefits from employer, United Airlines. At arbitration, the parties stipulated that claimant sustained accidental injuries that arose out of and in the course of her employment on May 9, and October 23, 2001. The only disputed issue was the nature and extent of her injuries. Following a consolidated hearing, the arbitrator awarded claimant wage differential benefits pursuant section 8(d)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(d)(1) West 2002)) of (1) $417.93 per week for 13 weeks from May 13, 2005, through August 11, 2005; (2) $407.93 per week for 90-5/7 weeks from August 12, 2005, through May 8, 2007; and

(3) $407.93 from May 9, 2007 and "continuing for the duration of the disability."

The Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. On judicial review, the circuit court of Cook County confirmed the Commission. Employer appeals, arguing (1) the word "disability" as used in section 8(d)(1) of the Act encompasses economic disability and (2) the Commission erred by sustaining claimant's objection to evidence offered by employer, regarding claimant's work-life expectancy. We affirm.

On August 26, 1990, claimant began working for employer as a flight attendant. Employer agrees she sustained accidental injuries to her back that arose out of and in the course of her employment on both May 9, 2001, and October 23, 2001. Following her work-related accidents claimant underwent extensive medical treatment, including two surgeries to her lower back. Ultimately, claimant's treating physician placed her under permanent restrictions of no lifting of greater than 30 pounds, no pushing or pulling of greater than 40 pounds, and no repetitive bending or twisting. Employer's medical department also determined long-term restrictions on claimant's physical activities to be appropriate.

At arbitration, claimant sought wage differential benefits pursuant to section 8(d)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(d)(1) (West 2002)). Employer attempted to introduce the testimony and a report of Dr. Arthur Eubank, an economist, to provide an opinion on what age claimant was likely to leave the workforce. Claimant objected to Dr. Eubanks's testimony and report, arguing it was irrelevant in a section 8(d)(1) proceeding. Employer argued the word "disability" in section 8(d)(1) referred to "economic disability" and evidence as to when claimant was likely to leave the workforce would be relevant to determining when her "economic disability" would end. The arbitrator disagreed with employer and sustained claimant's objection to the evidence.

On April 8, 2009, the Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision without further comment. On September 24, 2009, the circuit court ...


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