from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, No. 15-MR-78; the
Hon. James Mack, Judge, presiding.
W. Bach, of Peoria, for appellant.
O. Roberts III and Kyle M. Tompkins, of Hasselberg, Grebe,
Snodgrass, Urban & Wentworth, of Peoria, for appellee.
W. Duda, of Law Offices of Thomas W. Duda, of Palatine, for
amicus curiae Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois.
Jessica E. DeWalt, of Illinois Municipal League, of
Springfield, amicus curiae.
JUSTICE MOORE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Hoffman, Hudson, and Harris concurred in
the judgment and opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge
dissented, with opinion.
1 The claimant, Curtis Simpson, appeals the judgment of the
circuit court of Peoria County, which confirmed the decision
of the Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) to
deny him benefits under section 8 of the Workers'
Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/8 (West 2014)), which he
sought against his employer, the City of Peoria (City). In
addition, the following motions have been taken with the case
on appeal: (1) the City's motion to strike the amicus
curiae brief filed by the Associated Firefighters of
Illinois (AFFI) on behalf of the claimant and (2) the motion
of the Illinois Municipal League (IML) for leave to intervene
as amicus curiae and to file a brief on behalf of
the City. For the following reasons, we grant the City's
motion to strike as to those portions of the AFFI's brief
that contain or reference matters that are de hors
the record, grant IML's motion to intervene as
amicus, deeming its brief to be filed
instanter, and affirm the judgment of the circuit
court, which confirmed the decision of the Commission.
3 The claimant was employed by the City as a firefighter. On
May 21, 2008, the claimant filed an application for
adjustment of claim under the Act (820 ILCS 305/1 et
seq. (West 2008)), alleging work-related permanent
injury to his heart by virtue of a heart attack. An
arbitration hearing was held on March 19, 2014, in which the
claimant amended his application to designate the injury as
"heart attack and cardiovascular disease." The
following evidence was adduced at the arbitration hearing.
4 The claimant testified that he began employment with the
City as a beginning firefighter/hoseman in 1976. He served as
a front line or line of duty firefighter for approximately 22
years, and testified in detail regarding his extensive
history of exposure with regard to fire, smoke, and other
toxins; his demolition of buildings; high-stress situations;
and noise. He also testified that when he became a fireman,
protective equipment was not available, but it progressively
became more available as time went on.
5 The claimant testified that he became an administrative
officer for the City's fire department in 1997 and worked
in this capacity until the end of his career. In his first
administrative positions, such as Assistant Chief, he was not
as closely related to the fire and basic life support calls
in terms of his day-to-day activities in that he was only
required to respond to multi-alarm fires. However, he
testified that there was a lot of stress involved when he
became Battalion Chief and became responsible for the safety
of 60 firefighters throughout an entire 24-hour period. In
that position, he had to respond to all working fires.
6 The claimant testified that on January 12, 2008, at the age
of 63, he was home sweeping and cleaning his garage. After he
finished, he went into the house to take a shower and get
ready for dinner. After his shower, he felt some moderate
pain and lay down on the bed to rest. His girlfriend at the
time, who is now his wife, came and asked him what was wrong.
Although the pain was not debilitating, she insisted he go to
the hospital. He was treated at the emergency room of Proctor
Hospital by a cardiologist, Darrel Gumm, who diagnosed cardio
enzyme elevation and then heart attack. Following that, he
underwent an angiogram and the placement of two stents. He
was placed on several medications: Atenolol, Lisinopril,
sodium vasolate, and Plavix, which is a blood thinner. He
soon learned that taking a blood thinner such as Plavix
disqualified him from working in any capacity at the City
7 The claimant testified that he did not have a family
history of cardiovascular disease, had never been a smoker,
and his alcohol use was minimal. As a result of his heart
attack, he applied for a duty disability pension, which was
granted. Since that time, he has had cardiovascular treatment
in the form of cardiac rehabilitation services and had a
third stent placement by Dr. Gumm in 2009. Due to his
cardiovascular condition, he no longer engages in stressful
activities or a regimented exercise program for fear of
having another heart attack.
8 On cross-examination, the claimant testified that in
addition to the traumatic experiences he went through as a
firefighter, there were many positive outcomes and good
things that happened while he was working, such as saving
lives. During the course of his career as a firefighter, he
never sought mental health treatment or psychological
counseling. The stress of the job never got to the point that
he needed medical intervention or felt it was affecting his
ability to do his job or perform the everyday activities of
9 Once he moved into an administrative capacity in 1997 for
the City, the requirement that he physically enter a burning
building was significantly diminished. In addition, his hours
changed from 24 hours on, 48 hours off, to a standard 8 a.m.
to 5 p.m., 40 hours-per-week schedule. However, every other
month he would be on call as the Division Chief to respond to
all working fires.
10 At the time of his heart attack, the claimant was on
medication for hypertension (high blood pressure) and
hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol). He had been tested for
sleep apnea but the test was negative, although certain
medical records report a history of sleep apnea. His mother
also had a history of hypertension, although the medical
records indicate that the claimant, at some point in time,
reported a history of heart disease in his mother. The
claimant characterized himself as overweight at the time of
the heart attack, having been in more of a sedentary job.
While cleaning his garage on the day of his heart attack, he
moved half a bag of bird seed out of the way and rolled a
cart with more bird seed as well. He now is retired, lives in
Arizona, and has regular stress tests under the care of a
cardiologist but is not under any physical restrictions from
11 The evidence deposition of Dr. Virginia Weaver was
admitted into evidence on behalf of the claimant. Dr. Weaver
testified regarding a vast array of credentials, the most
relevant being that she is a doctor of public health at the
Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins
University. She is board certified in internal medicine and
occupational medicine. She is a member of the American
College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and serves
on the medical advisory board of the International
Association of Firefighters (IAFF).
12 Dr. Weaver testified that she prepared a report concerning
the claimant at the claimant's attorney's request. In
preparation for her report, dated September 9, 2013, Dr.
Weaver reviewed the claimant's medical records from his
emergency room admission and subsequent cardiac treatment;
the report and deposition of the City's expert, Dr.
Fintel; and the report of Dr. McDowell, a resident of the
IAFF, who assisted Dr. Weaver in the evaluation of the
claimant's condition and its cause. Dr. Weaver testified
that she also conducted a phone interview with the claimant.
13 Dr. Weaver testified that she spoke with the claimant in
order to get an understanding of his working career and
specific issues within his job that could have resulted in
exposure to any of the number of firefighting hazards that
can result in cardiovascular disease. She testified that the
claimant's work history is consistent with most
firefighters in the United States in that, during the first
two to three years of his employment as a firefighter, he
generally did not use any type of breathing apparatus during
fire suppression and overhaul activities. Following that, he
began using self-controlled breathing apparatus (SCBA)
equipment during active fire suppression but not during the
overhaul phase. In the last couple of decades, the data shows
that overhaul activities are as high-risk as fire suppression
activities, and it is recommended now that firefighters keep
their SCBA equipment on the entire time they are doing
suppression and overhaul.
14 Dr. Weaver testified that as a result of the multiple
times the claimant undertook fire suppression activities
without SCBA equipment, the claimant had extensive exposure
to chemical asphyxiates, such as carbon monoxide and cyanide.
In addition, Dr. Weaver testified that the claimant's
stress and noise exposure during his 22 years of active
firefighting was extensive and that this type of occupational
stress is a risk factor for heart disease. Dr. Weaver
testified that the claimant's history of hypertension
"can certainly be occupational as a firefighter and
non-occupational." She recognized that the
claimant's obesity, age, sex, and history of
hyperlipidemia were also risk factors but that chronic
occupational exposure from firefighting in terms of
chemicals, stress, noise, and disrupted sleep were risk
factors as well.
15 Dr. Weaver explained recent developments regarding
occupational hazards related to firefighting and
cardiovascular disease. It has been very clear for a long
period of time that acute exposure to certain chemical
asphyxiates during fire suppression activities followed by a
cardiac event within 24 to 48 hours signifies a work-related
injury. However, there is now literature that shows that
chronic carbon monoxide exposure increases the risk of
hypertension and elevated blood levels of inflammatory
markers which are risk factors for subsequent cardiac
disease. Other potential mechanisms for cardiovascular
disease from chronic smoke exposure include increased
formation of free radicals, subsequent endothelial
dysfunction, increased coagulability of the blood, and
increased progression of atherosclerosis. In addition, shift
work involving sleep deprivation has now been correlated with
hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Chronic
noise and stress are also associated with an increased risk
for chronic hypertension. Dr. ...