Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 14-L-50836; the
Hon. Carl Anthony Walker, Judge, presiding.
reversed, and arbitrator's decision reinstated.
S. Hamman, of Newman, Boyer & Statham, Ltd., of Tinley
Park, for appellant.
M. Tenuto and Timothy S. McNally, of Wiedner & McAuliffe,
Ltd., of Chicago, for appellee.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Hudson, and
Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 On June 23, 2009, claimant, Mark Mytnik, filed an
application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Illinois
Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 to 30
(West 2008)), seeking benefits from the employer, Ford Motor
Company, for injury to his back caused by "[e]xcessive
twisting and bending on job." Following a hearing, the
arbitrator found claimant sustained a compensable injury and
awarded him benefits under the Act. On review, the Illinois
Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) reversed
the decision of the arbitrator, finding that claimant failed
to establish his injury arose out of and in the course of his
employment. On judicial review, the circuit court confirmed
the Commission's decision. This appeal followed.
2 On appeal, claimant challenges the Commission's finding
that he failed to prove an accident arising out of and in the
course of his employment. We reverse the circuit court's
judgment confirming the Commission's decision, reverse
the Commission's decision, and reinstate the decision of
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 The following evidence was elicited at the February 25,
2013, arbitration hearing.
5 Claimant testified that he had worked for the employer on
the assembly line since October 1994. On May 21, 2009, he was
working the "moon buggy" job, which involved
installing rear suspensions on vehicles as they moved along
the assembly line. The moon buggy job required the employee
to stand on a platform that moved in a circular fashion, step
on a foot pedal to raise the rear suspension up to the
vehicle, reach back and grab an articulating arm, load the
articulating arm with two bolts, and then raise the
articulating arm up to the vehicle and press a button on the
arm that secured the rear suspension with bolts. According to
claimant, the moon buggy job required him to twist and turn
to grab equipment like bolts and brackets and to reach behind
him to grab the articulating arm. Claimant stated that
sometimes the bolts would fall out of the articulating arm
and had to be retrieved quickly to avoid the rotating
platform from running over the bolts and jamming, which would
result in the assembly line shutting down. When a bolt fell,
claimant would have to "run down there, bend over, reach
and *** pick it up before the [rotating platform] runs it
over." According to claimant, if the assembly line
stopped, "you would usually get reamed out by the
6 Claimant testified the moon buggy job allowed approximately
48 to 52 seconds to install the rear suspension on one
vehicle before the assembly line moved. He estimated that he
installed rear suspensions on approximately 62 vehicles per
hour. In addition, he had to lift approximately 20 to 25
boxes of parts per day that weighed "anywhere from
30lbs, a lot heavier if you're doubling them up, 70
pounds per box." Claimant worked on the assembly line 5
days per week, approximately 10 hours per day with two
7 Claimant further testified that he started his workday at 6
a.m. on May 21, 2009. At approximately 10 a.m., he
"noticed [his] back was starting to bother [him]."
Claimant explained that he had sustained a prior back injury
at the employer's plant in 2002 or 2003. He continued to
do his job that morning, but later, as he was reaching down
to grab a bolt that had fallen on the assembly line, he felt
"a real sharp, almost like needle pains down [his] right
side, [he] knew something *** was just out of the
ordinary." Within 10 to 15 minutes of this, claimant
flagged down his supervisor, Zack Bozanic, and informed him
that his back was hurting. After Bozanic found someone to
take over claimant's job, he sent claimant to the
employer's medical department. Claimant testified that
once at the medical department, he reported sharp pains down
the right side of his leg and that his back was bothering
him. As he was sitting on a table, he noticed his leg started
getting "a little numb." The report from the
medical department indicated claimant was seen at 12:17 p.m.
and lists the time of onset of pain as 8:30 a.m. The report
noted that claimant was "working on the moon buggy and
[his right] leg stays on the foot paddle and as the moon
buggy moves it twists [his] body and now [he] has [pain] in
[his right] hip." In addition, claimant complained of
"low back [pain] radiating down the right hip and back
of upper leg." Claimant was diagnosed with a sprain and
strain of his lumbar spine and pelvis. He was given ibuprofen
and returned to work. Later that day, claimant filled out an
accident report, in which he stated: "moonbuggy move[s]
and you have your [right] leg on foot [pedal, ] your [left]
leg does not move so your body [turns.] I [felt] it when I
was picking up bolts off the floor. Twisting of body felt
pain in [right] hip and leg."
8 Claimant testified that he finished his shift, but when he
woke up the next day, he was "in excruciating
pain." He returned to work on May 26, 2009, and reported
he was unable to bend, twist, or stand. Claimant was sent
back to the employer's medical department, and from
there, he was sent to Ingalls Urgent Care (Urgent Care).
Medical reports from Urgent Care indicated that claimant
noted "NO SPECIFIC TRAUMA, " but reported
"that he was using a foot pedal repetitively with his
right foot and twisting and turning when he began with right
lower back pain that radiated down the posterior lateral
aspect of his right thigh to his right foot." A magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) scan of claimant's lumbar spine
was performed that day and compared with a previous MRI dated
December 3, 2003. The new MRI revealed a broad posterocentral
and right paracentral disc herniation at L4-L5 that was not
present on the 2003 MRI and a preexisting broad
posterocentral disc herniation at L5-S1.
9 Claimant testified that he returned to work the following
day and reported directly to the medical department.
According to claimant, he stayed in the medical department
for approximately six hours. At one point, Michelle Gregory,
the employer's workers' compensation administrator,
spoke with him. Claimant stated that he told her his back
"was bothering [him], " "there [was] twisting
involved, picking up of stock, " and when he
"pick[ed] up that bolt[, he] felt that sharp pain."
Claimant testified that Gregory returned a few hours later
and told him "there [was] no way [he] could have got
hurt on this job" and that he needed to find his own
physician. The report from the medical department stated
that, upon observation of the moon buggy job, "[t]here
[was] no bending, twisting or heavy lifting involved"
and "[t]he case is denied as occupational after the
10 On May 27, 2009, claimant saw his primary care physician,
Dr. William Luebbe, for his back pain. Dr. Luebbe referred
him to Dr. Mark Chang for a surgical consultation.
11 Claimant first saw Dr. Mark Chang at Midwest SpineCare on
June 4, 2009. In a letter addressed to Dr. Luebbe of the same
date, Dr. Chang indicated claimant had reported pain in his
low back radiating down his right leg, which began two weeks
prior after a work-related accident "when he was picking
up some bolts while working on an assembly line." Dr.
Chang also noted claimant had a history of low back pain in
2003, but had completed physical therapy and had experienced
no further back problems prior to the recent injury. Dr.
Chang diagnosed claimant with an "[a]cute right L5
radiculopathy secondary to a new L4-5 disc herniation causing
significant nerve impingement, [and an] old L5-S1 disc
herniation not causing radiculopathy." He recommended
physical therapy and epidural injections for pain.
12 On June 8, 2009, claimant first saw Dr. Rajive Adlaka for
management of his pain. At that time, Dr. Adlaka noted
claimant presented with complaints of low back pain with
right side-dominant radiculopathy, which began after he
"ben[t] down to pick something up." On June 9 ...