In proceedings on a claim for the lower back injury a truck hauler suffered while loading his personal suitcase into his private car in preparation for his drive to his employer’s terminal to pick up his car-hauling truck to start delivering cars to various dealerships, the arbitrator’s findings that claimant failed to prove that he suffered an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment, that he was not acting as a “traveling employee” when he was injured, and that his injuries were not causally connected to his employment were affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Commission based on the conclusions that the risk resulting in claimant’s injury was a personal risk, not a risk peculiar to his work, and that claimant had not started his travel for work when he was injured, and the appellate court upheld the Commission’s decision on the ground that the finding that claimant’s injury did not arise out of or in the course of his injury was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County, No. 12-MR-821; the Hon. J. Edward Prochaska, Judge, presiding.
Brad A. Reynolds, of Gesmer Law Offices, P.C., of Rockford, for appellant.
Sam J. Cerniglia and Maria Merman, both of Roddy, Leahy, Guill & Zima, Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee.
Justices Hoffman, Hudson, Harris, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
HOLDRIDGE, PRESIDING JUSTICE.
¶ 1 The claimant, Lanyon Pryor, filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2008)), seeking benefits for an injury to his lower back which he sustained on July 21, 2008, while he was employed by Cassen Transport (employer). After conducting a hearing, an arbitrator found that the claimant had failed to prove that he sustained an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment. In so ruling, the arbitrator rejected the claimant's argument that he was acting as a "traveling employee" at the time he was injured. The arbitrator also found that the claimant failed to prove that the injuries he sustained, if any, were causally connected to his employment.
¶ 2 The claimant appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission), which unanimously affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The Commission found that the risk which resulted in the claimant's alleged injury was a personal risk that was "not sufficiently connected to [his] employment in order to be a risk peculiar to his work." Moreover, like the arbitrator, the Commission also found that the claimant's "travel for work had not yet begun when the accident occurred."
¶ 3 The claimant then sought judicial review of the Commission's decision in the circuit court of Winnebago County, which confirmed the Commission's decision. This appeal followed.
¶ 4 FACTS
¶ 5 The employer delivers new automobiles to various car dealerships for Chrysler. The claimant works for the employer as a car hauler. His responsibilities include loading automobiles onto an 18-wheel car-hauling truck at the employer's terminal in Belvidere, Illinois, driving the truck to various dealerships, and unloading the cars at those dealerships. Sometimes the claimant picks up vehicles on his return trip, loads them on the truck, and delivers them to another location on his way back to Belvidere. The claimant usually drives his personal vehicle from his home to the employer's Belvidere terminal and back.
¶ 6 One to two nights per week, the claimant spends the night at a hotel while he is on the road delivering cars to dealerships. The employer provides each car hauler with a list of motels so he can book an overnight stay at one of those hotels while he is on the road. When the claimant anticipates that he will be staying overnight at a hotel, he packs a suitcase with a change of clothes. The claimant usually drives to the employer's terminal in his personal vehicle, takes the suitcase out of his vehicle, and puts it into an 18-wheeler. He then loads the 18-wheeler with cars and drives it to the various dealerships where he delivers the cars.
¶ 7 On July 21, 2008, the claimant arose at 4 a.m. to get ready for work. He testified that he planned to drive to the Belvidere terminal that morning to "start [his] work." Because he anticipated being out of town overnight for work that evening, the claimant packed a suitcase with a change of clothes and other items for the trip. The claimant carried the packed suitcase to his personal car, opened the car door, reached down to pick up the suitcase, and "bent and turned to the back seat of the car." At that moment, the claimant felt an "unbearable" pain through his back and down his legs which ...