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Absolute Cleaning/Svmbl v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

April 28, 2011



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

Workers' Compensation

NOTICE Decision filed 04/28/11. 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.

JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice McCullough and Justices Holdridge, Hudson, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and the opinion.


Absolute Cleaning/SVMBL (Absolute) appeals from an order of the circuit court of Sangamon County which confirmed a decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission), finding that its employee, Suanne Palazzolo (claimant), sustained work-related injuries on May 9, 2006, and November 6, 2006, which arose out of and in the course of her employment and awarding the claimant benefits pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2004)). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court and remand this cause to the Commission.

The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing on the claimant's petition for adjustment of claim.

The claimant, a worker for Absolute's cleaning business, testified that, on May 9, 2006, while lifting a mop bucket during her cleaning duties, she experienced a sharp pain in her neck and lower back shooting into her arm and left leg. She testified that, years before that accident, she had sought treatment for neck or back problems but that those problems did not persist until the time of her May 2006 accident.

After the May 2006 accident, the claimant sought treatment from a chiropractor, Dr. Kelly Calloway, but returned to work without restrictions after missing less than one week. The claimant testified that she discontinued chiropractic treatment soon after the accident, and in fact sought no other medical treatment before her next work accident, on November 6, 2006. She testified that, on November 6, she was lifting a trash bag when she felt "the same feeling all over again," this time in her back and neck, and "going down the right arm and *** wrapping around the shoulder blade." After that incident, the claimant returned to Dr. Calloway. The claimant testified that she continued her chiropractic care from that point until the day of the hearing, and that the care helped to relieve her symptoms.

In her testimony, the claimant stated that Dr. Calloway referred her to Dr. Ronald Hertel "under [the claimant's] wishes." The claimant said that Dr. Hertel's name was given to her by her former attorney. The claimant later clarified that Dr. Calloway told her that she needed to see another doctor and that she could "choose a doctor that [Dr. Calloway] could refer [her] out to." In his December 28, 2006, note, Dr. Hertel wrote that he saw the claimant because she "was referred by her attorney *** for evaluation." The claimant disputed that characterization in her testimony. The claimant's medical records include a note, written by Dr. Calloway and dated December 8, 2006, saying, "I would like to refer [the claimant] to *** Dr. Ronald Hertel *** because I suspect a cervical disc problem."

In the patient history included in his December 28, 2006, treatment note, Dr. Hertel observed that the claimant had reported low-back pain after her first work incident but returned to work shortly thereafter and continued to work until the November 6, 2006, incident. Dr. Hertel wrote that, following that incident, the claimant experienced pain in her upper arms, her legs, and low back and problems with her neck. Dr. Hertel's physical examination revealed to him that the claimant's "symptoms [were] far in excess of that which [could] be substantiated on any objective physical finding." He recommended an MRI of the claimant's spine, but, according to the claimant's testimony, he did not do so until her attorney called the doctor after her appointment to request the recommendation. He also noted that, at the end of his examination, he and the claimant had an argument that led him to conclude that he should not schedule another appointment with her. A record of the January 19, 2007, MRI the claimant later underwent includes the impression that she suffered from mild disc protrusion at L3-L4, annular tear at L4-L5, left paracentral/left lateral disc prolapse at C5-C6, left paracentral disc protrusion at C4-C5, posterior central disc protrusion at C6-C7, and degenerative disc disease at L3-L4, L4-L5, and C5-C6.

In her testimony, the claimant said that she also saw her family doctor, Dr. Chris Sprinkel, because Dr. Calloway "told [her] that [she] would have to go to see him to get pain medicine." On cross-examination, the claimant clarified that Dr. Calloway did not give her a written referral to see Dr. Sprinkel but instead "just advised" her to see him if she wanted pain medication.

The claimant recalled that Dr. Sprinkel prescribed pain medication but told her that she needed to see a specialist and that she should arrange the referral through Dr. Calloway. Dr. Sprinkel's December 11, 2006, treatment note states ...

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