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League v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

April 23, 2013

SPRINGFIELD URBAN LEAGUE, Appellant,
v.
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (Cass Kohlrus, Appellee).

Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 11MR113, Honorable John Schmidt Judge Presiding.

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

OPINION

HARRIS JUSTICE

¶ 1 On February 22, 2008, claimant, Cass Kohlrus, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 to 30 (West 2006)), seeking benefits from the employer, Springfield Urban League, for injuries suffered to her left leg on January 2, 2008. Following a hearing, an arbitrator found claimant suffered a "left knee injury and left distal fracture" on January 2, 2008, arising out of and in the course of her employment with the employer. Further, the arbitrator found "the accident of January 2, 2008[, ] caused an aggravation to a pre-existing left knee degenerative arthritis and that a combination of the Petitioner's accident of January 2, 2008[, ] and her pre-existing left knee degenerative arthritis combined to cause her need for a left knee total replacement." The arbitrator awarded claimant temporary total disability (TTD) benefits of $214.60 per week for 10 5/7 weeks; permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits of $193.14 per week for 86 weeks, representing 40% loss of use of the left leg (see 820 ILCS 305/8(e)(12) (West 2006)); and $50, 328.90 for medical services.

¶ 2 The employer filed a petition for review of the arbitrator's decision before the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). On review, the Commission modified the arbitrator's decision, finding claimant failed to prove a causal connection between her work accident on January 2, 2008, and her "knee injury (and prospective total knee replacement) and aggravation of her pre-existing degenerative arthritis." The Commission otherwise affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision.

¶ 3 Thereafter, the employer filed a petition seeking judicial review in the circuit court of Sangamon County and the court confirmed the Commission's decision.

¶ 4 The employer appeals, arguing (1) the Commission's finding that claimant suffered an accident on January 2, 2008, arising out of her employment with the employer is against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) this court must remand to the Commission for a determination of a dollar amount owed to claimant pursuant to the medical fee schedule. We affirm.

¶ 5 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 6 The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing on March 2, 2010. The 77-year-old claimant testified she had been employed by the employer as a bus driver for approximately 10 years. On January 2, 2008, claimant attended a mandatory meeting of the employer's employees at St. Cabrini School in Springfield, Illinois. Approximately 200 employees attended the meeting. The meeting began at 8:30 a.m. and was scheduled to end at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon.

¶ 7 Claimant testified that at 3:25 p.m., the meeting ended and claimant walked toward the door leading to the parking lot. Claimant described a 10- to 12-foot carpeted mat edged with rubber placed in front of the door leading to the parking lot. Claimant stated the mat became bunched up midway along its length, causing her to trip and fall forward. According to claimant, she fell to the floor and broke her left knee.

¶ 8 Claimant testified that the photographs offered by the employer of the area where she fell did not accurately depict the position of the mat that became bunched and caused claimant to fall. In the photographs, there were two mats of similar size near the exit and placed in an "L" shape. On the day of the meeting, the mats were placed in a straight line leading into the gym where the meeting was held. Claimant testified she fell on the first mat after leaving the gym.

¶ 9 Kathy Laschansky testified that she worked as a bus driver for the employer on January 2, 2008, and attended the meeting at the school. Laschansky walked behind claimant with a couple of people between herself and claimant. Laschansky testified she saw claimant fall forward and she noticed the mat was kinked in the middle. Both Laschansky and claimant testified there were numerous people heading for the exits. Laschansky testified the mat leading to the exit was much longer than was depicted in the photographs. The mats were not placed on the floor in an "L" shape.

¶ 10 The employer offered the testimony of three employees: Norita Glover, Debra Lahey, and Tami McKittrick. Glover testified that she was walking directly behind claimant and talking to another employee. She was approximately three feet behind claimant and looking straight ahead. Glover did not look down to see the mat on which she and claimant walked, although she stated it looked like claimant just fell forward and both of her feet were caught on the mat. Glover testified the photographs accurately depicted the position of the mats on the day of the accident. She testified claimant fell between the two mats.

ΒΆ 11 Glover gave a recorded statement to the employer on September 11, 2008. Glover stated she looked at the mat after claimant fell and the mat was ...


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