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Arview v. Industrial Com.

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 24, 1953.

CECIL ARVIEW AND OLD BEN COAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFFS IN ERROR,

v.

THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. — (WILLIAM G. STRATTON, STATE TREASURER, DEFENDANT IN ERROR.)



WRITS OF ERROR to the Circuit Court of Franklin County; the Hon. CASWELL J. CREBS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BRISTOW DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This cause is heard on a writ of error to review the judgment of the circuit court of Franklin County, confirming the decision of the Industrial Commission in certain consolidated cases, awarding workmen's compensation to claimant Cecil Arview, payable solely from his employer, the respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation. During the course of the original proceedings before the commission respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation filed a special application for adjustment of claim to make the then State Treasurer and ex-officio custodian of the special fund, William G. Stratton, a party respondent under the provisions of section 8(f) of the Workmen's Compensation Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1947, chap. 48, par. 145(f).) The Industrial Commission did not rule thereon at the original hearing, but on a second hearing, held pursuant to an order of the circuit court remanding the cause, the commission consolidated the cases and the State Treasurer was made a party.

The issue presented herein is a question of law of first impression, and involves the construction and interrelation of the 1925 amendments to sections 7(e), 8(e)(18), and 8(f) of the Workmen's Compensation Act, to determine the amount, and from whom compensation is payable where an employee, who previously lost the sight of an eye, subsequently, in an independent accident, loses several other members.

The evidence is entirely uncontroverted, and reveals that on September 6, 1944, Cecil Arview, hereinafter referred to as the claimant, sustained the permanent and complete loss of sight of the right eye in an accident arising out of and in the course of his employment for respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation, for which he was paid by respondent, compensation for the proper period of temporary total incapacity, and for the specific loss of an eye. Respondent also paid at that time, pursuant to the provisions of the act (sec. 8(e) (20),) the sum of $100 into the special fund, since an employee had lost the sight of an eye in a compensable accident.

Claimant continued in the employment of the Old Ben Coal Corporation, and on October 25, 1948, he sustained accidental injuries by coming in contact with an overhead power line, resulting in the amputation of his right leg 7 inches below the knee, the amputation of his left leg 8 inches below the knee, and the amputation of his left arm at the shoulder joint. For these injuries respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation has already paid the medical and hospital expenses, for the artificial limbs, 37 weeks of compensation for temporary total disability, and 190 weeks of compensation at the scheduled rate for the specific loss of one leg.

On the basis of this evidence the commission found that claimant was not entitled to any compensation from the special fund, and ordered that the State Treasurer be dismissed as a party respondent. The commission further ordered that respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation pay claimant compensation for total permanent disability amounting to the sum of $26 per week for 275 weeks, and thereafter a pension, amounting to $858 annually, payable in 12 equal monthly installments of $71.50, during his lifetime. The circuit court of Franklin County affirmed the orders of the commission and both claimant and respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation filed petitions for writ of error, which have been allowed by this court.

Claimant Arview contends on this review that under a proper construction of the act, particularly sections 7(e), 8(e)(18) and 8(f), he is entitled to be paid, not only for his medical and hospital expenses, for his artificial limbs and for temporary total disability for 37 weeks, but for the specific loss of the left arm, amounting to $5850 as scheduled by the act, for the specific loss of the left leg, amounting to $4940, and for the specific loss of the right leg, also amounting to $4940; and that after the payment of all these specific losses, he is entitled to a 12 percent pension for his lifetime. These sums, claimant suggests, except for the specific loss of one leg, should be payable from the special fund of the State.

Respondent Old Ben Coal Corporation urges that, under a proper construction of these same sections of the act, its liability is limited to the payment of medical and hospital expenses, furnishing artificial limbs, and to the payment of compensation for the specific loss of one member, but that the claimant is further entitled to be paid from the special fund of the State compensation for the difference between the loss of the one member and permanent total disability, as well as a pension during his lifetime.

The State Treasurer, as ex-officio custodian of the special fund, contends that inasmuch as more than two members were lost in one accident the employer alone is liable for compensation for permanent and total disability and for a lifetime pension.

In determining questions of law under the Workmen's Compensation Act, where the facts are uncontroverted, the Supreme Court is in no manner bound by the findings and conclusions of the Industrial Commission or of the circuit court. (Dietzen Co. v. Industrial Board, 279 Ill. 11.) The objective of all statutory construction is to ascertain the legislative intent. As reiterated by the courts, since the days Lord Coke first expounded his theory of statutory construction, this intent may be gleaned by first analyzing the law prior to the change, noting the defect to be remedied, and then analyzing the terms and provisions of the entire statute in the light of its objective. Sutherland Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, 3d ed., sec. 4501; Burke v. Industrial Com. 368 Ill. 554; City of Rockford v. Schultz, 296 Ill. 254; Boshuizen v. Thompson & Taylor Co. 360 Ill. 160, 163; Anderson v. City of Park Ridge, 396 Ill. 235, 244.

In City of Rockford v. Schultz, 296 Ill. 254, the court stated, at page 257: "The object in construing a statute is to ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent, and to that end the whole act, the law existing prior to its passage, any changes in the law made by the act, and the apparent motive for making such changes, will be weighed and considered."

While this approach does not sanction judicial legislation, it does direct the court to avoid a construction of the act which will render it ineffective or produce absurd consequences. (Patterson Pure Food Pie Co. v. Industrial Com. 335 Ill. 476, 480; Moweaqua Coal Corp. v. Industrial Com. 360 Ill. 194, 200.) It is therefore incumbent upon this court to first review the legislative metamorphosis of the relevant sections of the act.

Prior to the 1925 amendment section 8(e) (18) of the act provided that the loss, or the permanent and complete loss of use of both hands, or both arms or both feet or both legs or both eyes, or of any two thereof shall constitute total and permanent disability, to be compensated according to the compensation fixed by section 8(f), and that these specific cases of permanent total disability should not be construed as excluding other cases.

At this time section 8(f) provided compensation for permanent total disability in the amount of a death benefit and thereafter a life pension equal to 8 percent thereof. It also provided in substance that the award may be modified if the employee returned to work and his earning capacity increased. Section 7(e) at this time contained no reference to the special fund, and provided merely that if no amount is payable in ...


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