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Continental Tire of Americas, LLC v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

November 6, 2015

CONTINENTAL TIRE OF THE AMERICAS, LLC, Appellant,
v.
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (Curtis Oltmann, Appellee)

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Washington County. No. 13-MR-9. Honorable Daniel J. Emge, Judge, presiding.

For Appellant: Thomas H. Kuergeleis, Neil A. Giffhorn, Keefe & De Pauli, P.C., Fairview Heights, IL.

For Appellee: T. Fritz Levenhagen, Levenhagen Law Firm, P.C., Suite B, Swansea, IL.

JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Hudson, and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

STEWART, JUSTICE.

[¶1] The only issue raised in this workers' compensation appeal concerns the nature and extent of the claimant's injury to his left wrist. The claimant, Curtis Oltmann, worked as a labor trainer for the employer, Continental Tire of the Americas, LLC, at its manufacturing plant in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. He was involved in a workplace slip and fall accident that resulted in an injury to his left wrist. He filed a claim for benefits pursuant to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (the Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2012)). An arbitrator found that the claimant sustained a 5% loss of use of his left hand as a result of the accident. The employer appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (the Commission). The Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The employer appealed to the circuit court, and the circuit court confirmed the Commission's decision. The employer now appeals the judgment of the circuit court that confirmed the Commission's decision. The employer argues that the claimant failed to prove that he suffered any permanent partial disability as a result of the workplace accident. We affirm.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] The parties do not dispute that the claimant suffered a workplace accident on January 31, 2012. He tripped and fell while taking trash to a dumpster, landing on his left hand and arm. Subsequent X-rays revealed a left wrist fracture. On February 1, 2012, an orthopedist, Dr. David Brown, examined the claimant, placed his arm in a splint, and restricted him to light duty. The claimant followed up with Dr. Brown on February 29, 2012. On that day, Dr. Brown opined that the claimant was at maximum medical improvement and released him to full duty work with no restrictions. Dr. Brown told the claimant to return to his care if he had any further complications. The claimant returned to work full duty with no restrictions and has not sought any further medical treatment as a result of the fall.

[¶4] At the December 6, 2012, arbitration hearing, the only disputed issue was the nature and extent of the claimant's injury. The claimant testified that after he reached maximum medical improvement, he returned to work earning the same rate of pay that he did prior to the accident and worked more hours. The week before the arbitration hearing, he worked 57 hours. He testified that he continued to experience pain from time to time in his left wrist. He told the arbitrator that when he is required to grab tires at work, he sometimes experiences pain in his left hand. In addition, when he carries something heavy, he can feel pain in his left wrist. After reaching maximum medical improvement, he played golf in the plant's golf league, which required him to play nine holes of golf one day per week. His team came in first place out of 16 teams in the league. He also played nine additional holes of golf each week. He testified that he sometimes has difficulties with his wrist when playing golf.

[¶5] Dr. Brown testified that his initial examination of the claimant's left wrist revealed a dorsal triquetral avulsion, which is also called a chip fracture of the triquetral bone in the wrist. He described the chip as being approximately three or four millimeters and located on the back or top of the wrist. For treatment, he recommended a removal splint to rest the wrist and allow the swelling to go down and a home exercise program.

[¶6] Dr. Brown testified that when the claimant returned on February 29, 2012, his wrist was doing great and was much better. Dr. Brown's examination of the wrist was negative, with good range of motion and no tenderness. He discharged the claimant from active care with instructions to return if he had any further issues. He released the claimant to work full duty and opined that the claimant should not suffer any residual functional loss or difficulties with his left hand or wrist. He believed that there would be some soreness for some time, usually four to six months, but the soreness would go away. He noted that typically there was no long-term negative sequelae from this type of injury.

[¶7] On March 15, 2012, Dr. Brown prepared a written report containing a disability rating based upon American Medical Association guidelines, which is required by section 8.1b(a) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8.1b(a) (West 2012)). Dr. Brown opined in his report that there was no permanent impairment in the claimant's left extremity as a result of the chip fracture. He explained in the report that at the time of the last examination, the claimant was doing great functionally. He had full range of motion, no tenderness, and no impairment.

[¶8] At the conclusion of the hearing, the arbitrator found that the claimant sustained a 5% loss of use of his left hand as a result of the accident, and the Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision. The employer appealed to the circuit court, and the circuit court confirmed the Commission's decision. In the present appeal, the employer argues ...


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