Illinois Industrial Commission Majority Awarded Benefits To Claimant For Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome Allegedly Caused By Walking And Pivoting While Carrying Out Her Duties

Claimant worked for defendant installing clutches which required that she pick up the compressor, pivot 90 to 180 degrees and place the compressor into a larger shipping box. The rate of production was approximately on compressor every 45 seconds. Claimant also worked in the box department, which required that she stencil boxes, fill the boxes with compressors and then run to the other side of the rollers to get a wrap to put over the rollers so she could continue to fill up the box. Her work area was 15 to 20 fee. She had to pivot to place the smaller boxes containing stencils into larger boxes. She was constantly moving her feet, loading as many as 2400 compressors in a shift. If the stenciled boxes coming out of the machine were not properly glued then she had to send the boxes through a strap machine. Claimant also placed a sheet of plywood on rollers followed by a pallet and a large shipping box. Claimant testified that in January of 1994, she began to experience a constant ache in her feet while working which progressed to a constant pain. She was diagnosed with tarsal tunnel syndrome.

Claimant’s treating podiatrist opined that a person pivoting with the type of frequency as claimant would put an unusual strain across the ankle and foot, which would tighten certain ligaments that were located over the nerve and would be causative in nature. Defendant’s expert opined that claimant was not at an increased risk to develop tarsal tunnel syndrome due to work activities and that there was not a single traumatic episode. The arbitrator found claimant found claimant failed to prove she sustained accidental injuries aris ing out of and in the course of her employment.

A majority of the Commission reversed, awarding 17-5/7 weeks of temporary total disability, permanent disability for 15% loss of use of the left foot and 10% of the right foot and $15,704 in reasonable and necessary medical expenses. In so holding, the majority noted that defendant’s expert was not a podiatrist or board certified in surgery and had only general staff privileges

at hospitals. The majority further noted that defendant’s expert testified he did not engage in the treatment of patients and was primarily employed as a consultant with several insurance carriers to perform causal connection and cost containment of claimant evaluations. Also, the majority pointed out that the expert did not conduct an independent medical examination of claimant and was not provided with information that claimant pivoted hundreds of times in the course of her work-related activities on each shift.

The dissent argued that there was nothing unusual or necessarily repetitive in terms of walking in claimant’s brief period of work f or defendant. The dissent noted that claimant admitted she developed pain in her foot while walking at the local mall, suffering pain which was indistinguishable from any pain at work. The dissent also pointed to the testimony of defendant’s expert, who stated that claimant’s movements were no different than those of general public and involved no risk beyond the risks of the general public. Furthermore, the dissent noted that claimant’s condition was bilateral-identical to both feet-such as may occur to members of the general public as they walk around. Rarely was any pivoting of the feet on any job identical to both feet. That her condition was same in both feet indicated to the dissent, along with the arbitrator, that there was not specific stimulus on the job causing claimant’s bilateral problem.

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