Joseph P. Basile | E-mail Joseph Basile
Two decisions are featured this month. Both concern procedure and jurisdiction. The first case, from the Workers’ Compensation Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, concerns strict compliance with §§19(f)(1) and 19(f)(2) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1, et seq., to confer subject-matter jurisdiction. In that case, the filing of an appeal bond was involved. The second case is an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision following an ex parte arbitration hearing. The Commission determined that the petitioner failed to comply with Rule 9030.20(c)(2). The Commission is requiring that a party requesting a hearing fully comply with Rule 9030.20(c).
Employer Fails To Vest Circuit Court with Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
In a Rule 23 Order, the Workers’ Compensation Commission Division of the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court holding that the employer failed to strictly comply with §19(f)(2) of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Meijer v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2019 IL App (2d) 180857WC-U. After two arbitration hearings, an arbitrator denied the claimant benefits, finding the claimant failed to prove he suffered accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment. The Commission reversed the decision and awarded benefits. The Commission issued its decision on April 18, 2018.
On May 2, 2018, Meijer filed with the Commission a notice of intent to file for review. On May 9, 2018, Meijer e-filed with the clerk of the circuit court the notice of intent, which was file stamped by the Commission, and a “Written Request for Summons — Workers’ Compensation Review” (request for summons). 2019 IL App (2d) 180857WC-U at ¶7. Meijer alleged it received the Commission’s decision on April 20, 2018. The clerk signed the summonses on May 11, 2018, but did not issue them.
On June 18, 2018, the clerk file-stamped a document entitled “Bond-Certiorari-Workmen’s Compensation” (appeal bond). 2019 IL App (2d) 180857WC-U at ¶8. The document was dated May 3, 2018, and signed by Meijer’s Vice President, as principal, and a member of Westchester Fire Insurance Company, Susan Welsh, as surety.
The claimant filed a motion to dismiss the petition for review for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The claimant argued that Meijer failed to file with the clerk of the circuit court an appeal bond at the time it filed its request for summons, as required by §19(f)(2). The claimant further argued that Meijer was required to file the appeal bond within 20 days of its receipt of the Commission’s decision and failed to do so. The claimant relied on Vallis Wyngroff Business Forms, Inc. v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 402 Ill.App.3d 91, 930 N.E.2d 587, 341 Ill.Dec. 377 (1st Dist. 2010), and Residential Carpentry, Inc. v. Kennedy, 377 Ill.App.3d 499, 879 N.E.2d 439, 316 Ill.Dec. 372 (1st Dist. 2007).
Meijer argued that after filing its notice of intent on May 2, 2018, Meijer’s counsel contacted the clerk of the circuit court requesting additional information regarding e-filing of appeal bonds because mandatory e-filing was a new procedure. Two clerks advised counsel that bonds did not need to be e-filed and could be mailed with all other documents following the e-filing. Meijer’s corporate office sent the appeal bond to counsel by Federal Express on May 4, 2018, for next day delivery. Federal Express lost the appeal bond, and counsel did not receive it until May 8, 2018, at 4:45 p.m. Counsel e-filed the notice of intent, along with the request for summons on May 9, 2018. On May 11, 2018, counsel mailed the original summons and appeal bond to the clerk’s office.
Meijer argued that the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction because it complied with §19(f)(1) by filing the notice of intent and request for summons within 20 days of its receipt of the Commission’s decision and that §19(f)(2) does not require an appeal bond to be filed within the same 20-day period. Meijer argued that filing the appeal bond is mandatory but not jurisdictional and the bond dated May 3, 2018, complied with §19(f)(2).
The circuit court dismissed the petition for review, finding it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the bond was not filed within the 20-day time frame.
On appeal, there was no question that the bond was not filed within the 20-day period. The issue was whether filing it within 20 days is a requirement to vest subject-matter jurisdiction under §19(f) of the Act. In its analysis, the court reiterated, “In workers’ compensation proceedings, circuit courts exercise ‘special statutory jurisdiction’ and strict compliance with the statute is required to vest the court with subject-matter jurisdiction.” 2019 IL App (2d) 180857WC-U at ¶17, quoting Kavonius v. Industrial Commission, 314 Ill.App.3d 166, 731 N.E.2d 1287, 1290, 247 Ill.Dec. 279 (2d Dist. 2000).
Section 19(f)(1) requires that a proceeding for review be commenced within 20 days of the receipt of the notice of the Commission’s decision and requires, within the same 20-day period, filing with the clerk of the circuit court a written request for summons and exhibiting to the clerk either proof of filing with the Commission a notice of intent to file for judicial review or an affidavit of the attorney indicating that written notice of intent to file for review has been given to the Commission.
Section 19(f)(2) provides in part:
No such summons shall issue unless the one against whom the Commission shall have rendered an award for the payment of money shall upon the filing of his written request for such summons file with the clerk of the court a bond conditioned that if he shall not successfully prosecute the review, he will pay the award and the costs of the proceedings in the courts.
The court found Meijer’s argument that it fully complied with the jurisdictional requirements of the Act meritless. The court has consistently held that a party must strictly comply with the bond requirements of §19(f)(2) in order to confer subject-matter jurisdiction on the circuit court. The Supreme Court concluded that the filing of an appeal bond in accordance with §19(f)(2) is a prerequisite to invoking a circuit court’s subject-matter jurisdiction. Illinois State Treasurer v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2015 IL 117418, 30 N.E.3d 288, 391 Ill.Dec. 18.
The court also rejected Meijer’s argument that §19(f)(2) does not require that an appeal bond be filed within the 20-day review period. The court adhered to previous decisions and concluded that an appeal bond must either be filed with the clerk or placed in the mail within 20 days of receiving the Commission’s decision in order to vest the circuit court with subject-matter jurisdiction.
Commission Vacates Arbitration Decision and Awards for Failure To Properly Notice Respondent
In Wraggs v. Jewel Bus Co., No. 08 WC 43781, 19 I.W.C.C. 407 (Aug. 2, 2019), the Commission determined that the petitioner failed to comply with Rule 9030.20(c)(2) of the Rules Governing Practice Before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The petitioner filed an application for adjustment of claim naming Jewel Bus Company as the respondent. Jewel Bus Company did not file an appearance. The petitioner filed an amended application naming the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund (IWBF) as an additional respondent. On January 8, 2018, the case was dismissed for want of prosecution. It was reinstated on March 13, 2018. The arbitrator set the case for a final hearing on May 9, 2018. Jewel Bus Company failed to appear for the trial.
Before the trial started, the IWBF objected to the hearing, arguing the petitioner failed to properly serve Jewel Bus Company with the notice of hearing required by the Commission’s Rules. The petitioner’s counsel represented that he called the company directly and the telephone was disconnected. He also searched the Internet and discovered the owner was indicted for tax evasion in 2016. No other attempts were made to notify Jewel Bus Company of the hearing. The arbitrator overruled the IWBF’s objection, and the case proceeded to hearing ex parte.
The Commission referenced Rule 9030.20(c)(2), which provides:
If any party fails, without good cause, to appear, the Arbitrator will hear the motion for trial date ex parte and, if the Arbitrator determines the matter is ready for trial, will set a trial date convenient to the Arbitrator and the party that appeared. The party that appeared shall notify the opposing party of the trial date.
The Commission ruled that, despite Jewel Bus Company having never appeared in the case, the petitioner’s attempt to notify it of the May 9, 2018, hearing was insufficient. The petitioner failed to properly notify the Jewel Bus Company of the trial date as required by Rule 9030.20(c)(2). Consequently, the arbitrator was without jurisdiction to conduct an ex partehearing. The Commission vacated the decision and remanded the case for a new hearing with proper notice.
For more information on workers’ compensation, see WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PRACTICE (ILLINOIS) — 2015 EDITION. Online Library subscribers can view it for free by clicking here. If you don’t currently subscribe to the Online Library, visit www.iicle.com/subscriptions.