In awarding penalties and attorney fees, the Commission determined that defendant’s unilateral termination of permanent total disability benefits occurred three weeks before claimant’s failure to attend a scheduled medical examination and therefore could not be premised on section of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
In December 1987, the arbitrator found claimant permanently totally disabled under section 8(f) due to work injuries sustained on Jan 11, 1979. The arbitrator found that claimant sustained a badly fractured leg requiring surgery and lengthy periods of inactivity. She further found that claimant’s orthopedic problems were complicated by increased obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which did not manifest until after the work accident. The arbitrator determined that the work accident aggravated the problems which made claimant unemployable. From December 1987 until March 1995, defendant made timely payment of permanent total disability benefits. Defendant also made multiple and extensive attempts to obtain from claimant medical information and documentation regarding claimant’s ongoing medical condition and his inability to perform gainful employment.
Claimant filed a petition for penalties under section 19(k) and attorney fees under section 16, claiming defendant unilaterally terminated claimant’s permanent total disability benefits without filing a petition pursuant to section 8(f) seeking a determination that claimant’s disability had “diminished or ended.” Defendant resumed permanent total disability benefits and filed a Motion to Suspend and Terminate permanent total disability benefits.
The Commission awarded claimant $18949 in penalties under section 19(k) and $7,579 in attorney fees under section 16 for defendant’s unilateral termination of permanent total disability benefits. The Commission noted that defendant’s termination of benefits occurred three weeks before claimant’s failure to attend defendant’s scheduled medical examination because defendant did not pay the travel costs in advance as required by section 12.
Also, the Commission denied defendant’s motion to suspend and terminate permanent total disability benefits. The Commission relied on the opinions of claimant’s treating doctor, which indicated that claimant’s condition remained
unchanged and chronic. Claimant had continued to treat with his doctor from 1991 through 1998 and at no time did the doctor authorize claimant to return to work. The doctor opined that although claimant at times may have appeared to have improved, such improvement was temporary and claimant’s condition ultimately worsened. The Commission pointed out that even the report of defendant’s doctor showed no new objective findings indicating that claimant’s condition had substantially changed.