The Workers’ Compensation Commission’s award of 10% loss of the person as a whole for the back injury claimant suffered in a work-related fall was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, but the portion of the judgment modifying the calculation of claimant’s average weekly wage to include her income from teaching piano lessons from her home was reversed and the cause was remanded for redetermination of the average weekly wage and benefits to which claimant was entitled.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County, No. 11-MR-1459; the Hon. Terence M. Sheen, Judge, presiding
Anthony L. Russo, Sr., of Russo & Russo, Ltd., of Wheaton, for appellant.
Jeffrey B. Huebsch, of Power & Cronin, Ltd., of Oak Brook, for appellee.
Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Hudson, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 On March 19, 2004, claimant, Cindy Mansfield, filed two applications for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 through 30 (West 2002)), seeking benefits from the employer, Naperville Park District, for injuries suffered to her low back, legs, neck, and arms on July 23, 2003 (No. 04WC13562), and on September 9, 2003 (No. 04WC13563).
¶ 2 Following a consolidated hearing, an arbitrator issued a separate decision for each case. Regarding the injury suffered on July 23, 2003, the arbitrator found that claimant proved she sustained injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment with the employer on that date. Specifically, the arbitrator found claimant "suffered a lumbar strain as a result of the initial injury on July 23, 2003, and that a causal relationship existed between said work injury and her condition of ill-being up through the date of the second injury on September 9, 2003, the subject of claim 04 WC 13563." However, the arbitrator found claimant failed to prove she was entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits and medical expenses from July 23, 2003, the date of the first accident, to September 9, 2003, the date of the second accident. The arbitrator stated his intent to address the issue of the nature and extent of claimant's injuries in his order in case No. 04WC13563. Neither party sought review of the arbitrator's decision (No. 04WC13562) before the Commission.
¶ 3 Regarding the injury suffered on September 9, 2003 (No. 04WC13563), the arbitrator found claimant proved she sustained injuries arising out of and in the course of her employment with the employer on September 9, 2003, and "a causal relationship existed between the accident on September 9, 2003 and Petitioner's current condition of ill-being, including the need for the surgery she eventually underwent on December 13, 2004." The arbitrator determined claimant's average weekly wage was $437.50, and awarded claimant TTD benefits in the amount of $291.67 per week, from September 9, 2003, through July 5, 2005; permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits in the amount of $262.50 per week for 125 weeks, representing 25% loss of her person as a whole; and medical expenses in the amount of $108, 554.15.
¶ 4 The employer filed a petition for review of the arbitrator's decision (case No. 04WC13563) before the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). On review, the Commission modified the arbitrator's decision finding claimant failed to prove a causal relationship between her injury on September 9, 2003, and her condition of ill-being after April 30, 2004. The Commission awarded claimant TTD benefits in the amount of $291.67 per week, from September 11, 2003, through April 12, 2004; PPD benefits in the amount of $262.50 per week for 50 weeks, representing 10% loss of her person as a whole; and medical expenses in the amount of $5, 416.54. The Commission otherwise affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision.
¶ 5 Thereafter, both claimant and the employer filed petitions seeking judicial review in the circuit court of Du Page County. The circuit court modified the Commission's decision, finding claimant's average weekly wage was $517.56 and directing the Commission "to recalculate the average weekly wage and the benefits allowed in conformity with this Opinion." The court otherwise confirmed the Commission's decision.
¶ 6 Claimant appeals, arguing the Commission's findings regarding causation, average weekly wage, TTD benefits, PPD benefits, and medical expenses are against the manifest weight of the evidence. The employer cross-appeals, arguing the Commission incorrectly calculated claimant's average weekly wage as including profits from claimant's self-employment providing piano lessons in her home.
¶ 7 I. BACKGROUND
¶ 8 The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the consolidated arbitration hearing.
¶ 9 The 47-year-old claimant testified that she began work teaching various preschool classes for the employer in approximately 1999. Claimant worked between 12 and 20 hours each week depending on class offerings and student enrollment. Claimant also taught piano in her home. She worked approximately the same number of hours from home as for the employer.
¶ 10 On July 23, 2003, claimant assisted two-year-olds with a program for their parents. Near the end of the program, claimant felt a child standing immediately behind her. In an effort to avoid falling on the child, claimant leaped back and fell on her low back, bottom, and arm. As a result, claimant experienced soreness in her back, arms, and shoulders. According to a wage statement prepared by the employer, claimant continued to work, reporting 9.75 hours worked for the pay period including July 26, 2003, through ...