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Bell v. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District, Workers Compensation Commission Division

May 1, 2015

JANET K. BELL, Administrator of the Estate of Mary J. Nash, Appellant,

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial Circuit Coles County, Illinois. Circuit No. 13-MR-123. Honorable Teresa K. Righter, Judge, Presiding.

Sandra K. Loeb and Matthew Duco, both of Spiros Law, P.C., of Danville, for appellant.

Stephen J. Klyczek (argued), of Hennessy & Roach, P.C., of Springfield, for appellee.

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


Page 705


[¶1] Mary J. Nash filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2008)), seeking benefits for injuries she sustained while she was working for Dan Pilson Auto Center (employer). Prior to the arbitration hearing, Ms. Nash died of causes unrelated to her work accident. Janet K. Bell, Ms. Nash's sister and the administrator of her estate (claimant), filed an amended application for adjustment of claim substituting herself as the claimant. After conducting a hearing, an arbitrator awarded temporary total disability (TTD) benefits and medical expenses and found that the claimant had sustained a permanent partial disability from her work injury. However, the arbitrator ruled that any permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits that had accrued prior to Ms. Nash's death abated with her death, and declined to award any such benefits to her estate.

[¶2] The claimant appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (the Commission). The Commission unanimously affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The claimant then sought judicial review of the Commission's decision in the circuit court of Coles County, which confirmed the Commission's ruling. This appeal followed.

Page 706


[¶4] Mary J. Nash worked for the employer as a clerical worker for approximately 25 years. The parties stipulated that Ms. Nash sustained accidental injuries that arose out of the course of her employment on January 30, 2008, when she slipped and fell in the employer's parking lot. She was transported by ambulance to Sarah Bush Lincoln Medical Center where she was diagnosed with an acute spiral fracture of the right distal femur. On February 1, 2008, Ms. Nash was admitted to the Carle Foundation Hospital where she underwent a surgical procedure on her fractured femur that the medical records described as an " open reduction and internal fixation" with plates and screws.

[¶5] Although Ms. Nash's femur healed properly and without complications in the months following the surgery, she remained too weak to walk without assistance. On July 16, 2008, Ms. Nash's surgeon, Dr. Alain Desy, noted that weakness in Ms. Nash's legs prevented her from " fully ambulating" and that she was still using a wheelchair. Dr. Desy also noted at that time that, although some of Ms. Nash's weakness had pre-existed her accident, she was able to walk without any assistive device prior to the accident. On August 27, 2008, Brian J. Cummings, Dr. Desy's physician's assistant, noted that Ms. Nash was experiencing very slow recovery of strength despite very sincere ongoing physical therapy efforts. Cummings suspected that Ms. Nash had an underlying neurological or rheumatological condition preexisting her work injury but not manifesting itself strongly enough to impede her lifestyle before August 2008. A neurology consult was recommended.

[¶6] On September 23, 2008, Ms. Nash was evaluated by Dr. Russell Cantrell, the employer's Section 12 examiner. After examining Ms. Nash and reviewing her medical records, Dr. Cantrell opined that Ms. Nash had reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) with regard to her work-related right femur fracture. Dr. Cantrell also opined that Ms. Nash's reported inability to resume ambulation without reliance on a wheelchair was not related to her work-related orthopedic injury but rather was " associated with an underlying neuropathic process." He recommended a more complete set of electrodiagnostic studies. However, Dr. Cantrell opined that Ms. Nash was capable of performing her regular work duties without restrictions as they related to her work-related right femur fracture.

[¶7] On March 18, 2009, Ms. Nash filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Commission seeking benefits for work-related injuries to her right leg that she allegedly suffered on January 30, 2008.

[¶8] On November 12, 2009, Ms. Nash was evaluated by Dr. Conrad Wiehl, a neurologist. Dr. Wiehl's examination revealed that Ms. Nash had diffuse weakness and more weakness proximally in her lower extremities than distal weakness. Dr. Wiehl suspected that Ms. Nash was suffering from " a muscular dystrophy of some sort." Accordingly, he ordered EMG/nerve conduction studies and blood tests.

[¶9] Ms. Nash returned to Dr. Wiehl on January 28, 2010, after undergoing the recommended studies. Dr. Wiehl testified that the diagnostic testing confirmed that Ms. Nash had a myopathy, which Dr. Wiehl defined as " an underlying muscle weakness syndrome." He opined that Ms. Nash's January 30, 2008, work accident " accelerated the clinical symptoms associated with her muscle disease." Dr. Wiehl also testified that, based upon his review of the medical ...

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