MOUNT VERNON – The Fifth District Appellate Court has reversed a ruling issued by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien favoring a workers' compensation claimant.
The appellate court found that the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission's conclusion that the claimant failed to prove that her husband’s accident was work-related was not against the weight of evidence presented.
The case was filed by Rebecca Toon, who alleged her husband Michael suffered fatal injuries as a heavy equipment operator for Power Maintenance and Constructors. Specifically, she alleged that her husband developed a cellular level infection in his lower abdomen because the steering wheel of the machine he operated rubbed against his abdomen.
The court's opinion states that an arbitrator determined Toon's claim was compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act and that the Commission reversed this decision, ruling that neither Toon nor the doctor who presented expert testimony had proved that the infection was caused by actions at work.
LeChien had set aside this decision and the Commission appealed.
“Dr. (Sri) Kolli agreed that 'poor hygiene' on the part of the decedent, which respondent's counsel referred to as the decedent's failure to seek medical care earlier, could have caused the cellulitis condition to spread. She also conceded that pressure from a belt after decedent gained a lot of weight could have been a source of the cellulitis,” the court wrote in the ruling.
“The Commission was therefore presented with evidence from which it could reasonably conclude that tight-fitting clothing could have caused decedent’s injury.”
The court made it clear that it was not making a determination as to the root cause of Michael Toon's lower abdomen infection, just that the decision reached by the Commission was not unreasonable.
“After reviewing the record, we cannot say that a conclusion opposite that of the Commission is clearly apparent. Quite simply, the Commission was presented with conflicting evidence regarding the mechanism of injury,” the court wrote. “The Commission weighed the evidence, assessed the credibility of the witnesses, and resolved this conflict in respondent’s favor, as was its province as the fact finder. Therefore, the Commission’s decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.”