United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
LAWRENCE J. HILL, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Richard Mills, United States District Judge.
J. Hill seeks review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of
the administrative law judge's decision denying his
application for disability insurance benefits.
are motions for summary judgment filed by both parties.
motion is allowed.
case is remanded.
Lawrence J. Hill, who was born in 1965, is a high school
graduate with two years of college and has worked as a
heating and air conditioning service technician. He filed an
application for disability insurance benefits on October 12,
2011, alleging he had been disabled since March 11, 2010
following a car accident. The Plaintiff's application was
denied initially and upon reconsideration.
Plaintiff and his attorney appeared before an administrative
law judge (ALJ) for a hearing. ALJ Diane Flebbe rendered a
decision in April 2013 concluding that Plaintiff had the
residual functional capacity to perform a reduced range of
light or sedentary work subject to certain limitations. The
ALJ further determined that jobs existed in significant
numbers which the Plaintiff could perform. The Appeals
Council denied the Plaintiff's request for review, making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Plaintiff injured his left knee, right shoulder, head and
neck in the car accident. Fractures were ruled out in the
emergency room. He was given an immobilizer due to a possible
sprain of the knee ligaments. The Plaintiff continued to have
pain and was sent to Ronald Romanelli, M.D., an orthopedic
specialist. Dr. Romanelli observed his antalgic gait, his
clinical signs and his difficulty getting in and out of the
chair. The Plaintiff was sent for an MRI, which showed intact
menisci, cruciate and collateral ligaments; a full thickness
cartilage defect; a large cyst and joint effusion. He was
given a cortisone shot, which did not really help, and
continued to have “obvious swelling.” The
Plaintiff was scheduled for arthroscopy in June 2010. Dr.
Romanelli observed clinical signs of injury. The arthroscope
disclosed patellofemoral problems consistent with dashboard
signs of injury. Dr. Romanelli observed a microfracture of
the femoral head. He did extensive debridement.
the procedure, the Plaintiff was concerned about the
swelling. He was told to ice the knee and take medications.
There was still swelling at his next two appointments. The
Plaintiff needed a wheelchair because crutches were not
workable due to his large size. Swelling was persistent and
was noted as a problem in therapy. The therapist noted that
his left knee was about 4 cm larger than his unimpaired right
knee. The Plaintiff was prescribed a cold compression unit.
The Plaintiff was able to use the therapy bike for six
minutes but it caused increased pain. His problems persisted
after weeks of therapy. The therapist again measured him and
determined the Plaintiff had measurable swelling in the left
knee. Dr. Romanelli observed “less” swelling
after eleven weeks and therapy. Dr. Romanelli again observed
swelling more than four months after the surgery, but noted
that Plaintiff was doing better.
October 2010, the Plaintiff was able to hit 18 golf balls
without increased pain. When he tried to walk for 40 minutes,
however, the Plaintiff had notable pain and fatigue. Soon
thereafter, the Plaintiff stated that his knee “blowed
up” following his last therapy. He believed that he
tried to do too much in terms of testing the knee. On
November 3, 2010, the therapist measured the swelling and it
had increased by nearly a centimeter since the start of
therapy. Two days later, Dr. Romanelli noted that Plaintiff
continued to complain of pain and discomfort. However, he
found “no abnormalities” and noted that “we
need to get him back to work.” On November 24, 2010,
the Plaintiff's knee was measured before and after
therapy. The range of motion decreased and swelling increased
following therapy. On December 3, 2010, Dr. Romanelli said
that Plaintiff is “still having a significant amount of
swelling and effusion, which I cannot explain.”
“He still has a difficult time walking and walks with
an antalgic gait.” An MRI showed a small ruptured
Baker's cyst, fluid collection in the bursa and edema,
with thinning cartilage and a subtle subchondral lesion.
January 7, 2011, Dr. Romanelli noted that Plaintiff still had
some swelling but less so. Dr. Romanelli referred the
Plaintiff back to the clinic and hoped he could return to
work. Dr. Romanelli noted a procedure like ...