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Dorsey v. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division

April 8, 2016

STANFORD DORSEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (City of Chicago, Defendant-Appellee)

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Circuit No. 14-L-50114. Honorable Robert Lopez Cepero, Judge, Presiding.

         FOR APPELLANT(s): Nicholas A. Rubino, William B. Meyers & Associates, Chicago, IL.

         FOR APPELLEE(s): Stephen R. Patton, Corporation Counsel of the City of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

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



          [¶1] The claimant, Stanford Dorsey, 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 to his left arm allegedly sustained while employed as a street light maintenance electrician for the City of Chicago (employer). Following a hearing, the arbitrator found that the claimant's injuries resulted in a 17% loss of the person-as-a-whole under section 8(d)(2) of the Act. 820 ILCS 305/8(d)(2) (West 2008). The employer sought review of the arbitrator's award before the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission), which modified the award, finding that the claimant's injury to his left arm was compensable as a scheduled injury under section 8(e) of the Act. 820 ILCS 305/8(e) (West 2008). The Commission awarded the claimant a sum equal to the loss of 37.5% of the use of the left arm. The Commission further held that the employer was entitled to a credit for a payment made in 1998, pursuant to a settlement, to compensate for a 30% loss of use of that same arm. The claimant sought judicial review of the Commission's decision before the circuit court of Cook County, which confirmed the Commission's decision. The claimant then filed this timely appeal.

          [¶2] The claimant raises the following issues on appeal: (1) whether the Commission's award of compensation for the loss of the use of the arm under section 8(e) of the Act rather the loss of the use of the person-as-a-whole under section 8(d)(2) was against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) whether the Commission erred in granting a credit to the employer for payments made pursuant to a prior settlement agreement.

         [¶3] FACTS

          [¶4] The following factual recitation is taken from the evidence presented at the arbitration hearing conducted on April 23, 2013.

          [¶5] The claimant testified that he had been employed as an electrician by the employer for approximately 24 years. On February 8, 2010, he was working with his crew on street lights that were not functioning. It was determined that they would need to lift a manhole cover to access the electrical circuits. The claimant estimated that the manhole cover weighed approximately 350 to 400 pounds. The claimant and a coworker attempted to lift the manhole cover together, but they lost their balance while doing so. In his struggle not to fall while holding up his end of the manhole cover, the claimant felt an immediate pain in his left arm. The pain caused him to drop the manhole cover.

          [¶6] The claimant sought immediate medical attention at Mercy Works Hospital. The claimant reported that he could not flex his left elbow and had tenderness in left forearm. An MRI revealed a complete disruption (rupture) of the distal biceps tendon, which is located just beneath the elbow. The treatment records noted " left elbow strain." There was no documented complaint of shoulder pain. The attending physician referred the claimant to Dr. William Hellar at the Woodland Orthopedic Center.

          [¶7] On February 12, 2010, the claimant was examined by Dr. Heller, a board certified orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Heller diagnosed ruptured distal bicep tendon and informed the claimant of the need for surgery to repair the rupture.

          [¶8] On February 15, 2010, Dr. Heller performed surgery to repair the tendon rupture and corresponding radial nerve neurolysis. The tendon repair required a debridement of the bicep tendon preparatory to reattachment of the tendon to the bone. The procedure further required surgical drilling into the bone near the elbow joint to anchor the tendon back to the bone with a 7 millimeter screw and anchor system. Following surgery, the claimant underwent a course of physical therapy and work hardening at Mercy Works and at Chatham Hand Rehabilitation Services in Chicago. The claimant's postoperative treatment and physical therapy records reflect the primary pain location as the left elbow, with no mention shoulder pain.

          [¶9] On September 17, 2010, the claimant was released to full duty with no work restrictions. He returned to his former job with the employer with the same duties and responsibilities and the same rate of pay. The claimant testified that at the time he returned to work his left arm was not as strong as his right, nor was it as strong as prior to the accident. He testified that after he returned to work, he was able to perform all tasks assigned to him; however, he was still experiencing pain in his left arm. He routinely took Ibuprofen for the pain. He further testified that he ...

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