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The Illinois Industrial Commission Properly Held That Claimant’s Ten Days Of Employment As Carpenter For Defendant Aggravated Her Pre-Existing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Appellate Court Ruled

The Appellate Court-1st District held that the testimony of claimant, along with the opinions of claimant’s treating and examining doctors, provided sufficient support for the finding that claimant’s preexisting carpal tunnel syndrome was aggravated by her ten days of employment as a carpenter for defendant.

Claimant, a carpenter, testified that 10 days after commencing employment with defendant, she had to seek medical treatment for intense pain, tingling and numbness in her hands. Her job required her to use a hammer, a sledgehammer and a contractor’s saw. She stated that the tingling and numbness continued on and off throughout the workday and became more pronounced the harder the work. She had previously experienced occasional tingling in her hands and fingers while working for other employers, but such sensation went away after taking aspirin.

Claimant’s treating doctor diagnosed severe bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and opined that although this condition was preexisting, it was exacerbated by her employment with defendant. Another doctor examined claimant and confirmed the treating doctor’s bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and that this condition was an idiopathic preexisting condition not related to or aggravated by her employment given claimant’s history of prior tingling and the short duration of employment with defendant.

The arbitrator awarded temporary total disability medical expenses, finding that claimant’s carpal tunnel syndrome was aggravated by her work for defendant. The Commission affirmed the decision of the arbitrator. The Circuit Court of Cook County confirmed the decision of the Commission.

The Appellate Court 1st District held that the testimony of claimant, along with the opinions of claimant’s treating and examining doctors, provided sufficient support for the conclusion that claimant proved an aggravation of a preexisting condition which was causally connected to her employment with defendant. The court noted that claimant was required to repeatedly use the contractor’s saw, that gripping the saw required a lot of strength and that the saw vibrated both her hands whenever she used it. The court noted that claimant’s job also required a lot of cutting and bolting concrete forms together. In order to perform the bolting, claimant had to use two hands and apply pressure to tighten the nut. Claimant also constructed a platform which required the use of the contractor’s saw and hammering as well as the use of a sledgehammer to pound stakes into the ground. The court pointed out that although claimant experienced some symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome prior to working for defendant, these symptoms were relived with aspirin and never caused her to miss work or seek medical treatment.