Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division
from the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Peoria
County, Illinois Appeal No. 3-16-0363WC Circuit No. 15-MR-343
Honorable Katherine Gorman, Judge, Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justices Hoffman, Hudson, Harris, and
Moore concurred in the judgment and opinion.
HOLDRIDGE PRESIDING JUSTICE.
1 The claimant, Scott Holocker, filed an application for
adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act
(Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2012)), seeking
benefits for work-related injuries he sustained on September
11, 2012, while he was working for Komatsu America
Corporation (employer). Following a hearing, an arbitrator
found that the claimant was entitled to receive temporary
total disability (TTD) benefits from the time he was
terminated by the employer until the date of arbitration, a
period of 15 and 1/7 weeks. The arbitrator denied the
claimant's claims for penalties and attorney fees.
2 The claimant and the employer each sought review of the
arbitrator's decision before the Illinois Workers'
Compensation Commission (Commission). The claimant appealed
the arbitrator's calculation of his average weekly wage
and the denial of his claims for penalties and attorney fees.
The employer appealed the arbitrator's award of TTD
benefits and also appealed the arbitrator's calculation
of the claimant's average weekly wage. The Commission
unanimously reversed the arbitrator's award of TTD
benefits and its calculation of the claimant's average
weekly wage, and affirmed the arbitrator's denial of
penalties and attorney fees.
3 The claimant then sought judicial review of the
Commission's decision before the circuit court of Peoria
County. The circuit court reversed the Commission's
denial of TTD benefits and adopted the arbitrator's award
of TTD benefits. The court also reversed the Commission's
calculation of the claimant's average weekly wage and
affirmed the Commission's denial of penalties and
4 This appeal followed.
6 The claimant worked for the employer as a
"transportation operator" at the employer's
manufacturing facility in Peoria, Illinois. His duties
included operating a 40-ton overhead crane. On September 11,
2012, the claimant was operating the crane, placing together
heavy steel sections for an oversized mining truck. Each of
the steel sections weighed several tons, and they were
secured by a chainmail strap. After placing a steel section
on the mining truck, the claimant was retracting the loosened
chainmail strap when it got stuck. As the claimant looked up
at the crane to identify the problem, the chainmail strap
snapped loose and hit the claimant, striking him in the face
and chest. The blow knocked him backwards, knocked out four
of his teeth (including three of his upper front teeth and
one lower tooth), loosened other teeth, and caused multiple
facial fractures and chest contusions.
7 After the accident, the claimant was taken by ambulance to
St. Francis Medical Center where he was noted to have facial
and dental fractures and a large laceration of his lower lip
extending into his chin. Diagnostic studies showed multiple
fractures of his right maxillary sinus and right maxilla, as
well as hemorrhage within the right maxillary sinus, the loss
of four teeth, and a left chest wall contusion. The
claimant's mouth laceration was repaired and he was
discharged with prescriptions for pain medications and
8 The claimant was off work from September 12, 2012, until
October 16, 2012, when he returned to work under light duty
restrictions. On December 14, 2012, the claimant was released
to work full duty with no restrictions. He was still
undergoing treatment for his work-related injuries at that
time. During the next 13 months, the defendant underwent four
surgical procedures to his face and mouth to correct his
pallet and maxilla and to prepare for the insertion of
permanent dental implants. The claimant also treated with a
dentist and underwent several attempts at restoring his
teeth. Prior to the claimant's termination in October
2013, the employer paid the claimant TTD benefits while he
was off work following surgeries.
¶ 9 After his return to work in October of 2012, the
claimant felt uncomfortable operating cranes and he asked his
supervisor not to assign him any crane duties. For the most
part, the employer accommodated the claimant's request.
The claimant was reassigned to work a different shift in
another building where there were no overhead cranes. The
claimant testified that he "may have" operated a
large, overhead crane a few times in late 2012 and early
2013. Nevertheless, although the claimant was still
classified as a transportation operator, operating cranes was
no longer part of his regular duties at that time. He
primarily operated a fork truck.
10 In May 2013, however, the claimant was reassigned to his
former job in the building where his work accident had
occurred. The claimant discussed his fear of operating cranes
with his new foreman, Ken Hoppe. Hoppe generally cooperated
with the claimant's request to avoid working with cranes.
Eventually, however, the claimant was required to operate a
crane on two or three occasions. Each time he did so, the
claimant experienced considerable anxiety, his chest
tightened, and his heart raced. On July 3, 2013, the claimant
experienced a panic attack while operating the same 40-ton
overhead crane that had injured him. He was so shaken
afterwards that he immediately visited the onsite
occupational nurse, Lori Akers, and asked to be sent to the
emergency room. Another nurse diagnosed an anxiety attack and
took the claimant off work until he was cleared by his
primary care physician, Dr. Alain Vilatte.
11 On July 11, 2013, the claimant treated with Dr. Vilatte.
The claimant reported that, during the six weeks following
his return to the same job that had caused his work injury,
he had been experiencing increasing anxiety with
palpitations, agitation, racing thoughts, feelings of losing
control, and difficulty concentrating. Dr. Vilatte noted that
the claimant was experiencing panic attacks and anxiety while
doing his job. He prescribed an anti-anxiety medication and
recommended that the claimant undergo counseling. He also
recommended that the claimant be placed at another job while
he adjusted to the medication.
12 Thereafter, the claimant asked the employer to reassign
him to a different position. The employer offered the
claimant a full-time janitorial position at its Peoria
facility, which would not require the claimant to work on or
near cranes. The claimant declined that position and
continued to work for the employer as a transportation
operator. He was not required to operate cranes.
13 On July 22, 2013, the claimant was evaluated by Dr. Edward
Moody, a physician at OSF Occupational Health who had
previously served as the employer's company doctor. Dr.
Moody concluded that it was "the operation of the crane
in question" that was provoking the claimant's
anxiety. He cleared the claimant for full duty janitorial
work and recommended a restriction of no crane operation for
six to eight weeks if he returned to his previous position as
a transportation operator. Thereafter, the ...