Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
Richard E. Mann, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Truth is not a weather vane.
It does not veer when the winds of self-interest change.
A claimant cannot say he is partially permanently disabled for settlement purposes and then claim to have no disability in order to get his former job back.
Coe was dismissed from his position as a highway maintenance equipment operator with the Illinois Department of Transportation (the Department). The Civil Service Commission (the Commission) found that the charges for discharge were not proven by the Department. But the circuit court reversed the Commission's finding and held for the Department.
While working for the Department in December of 1978, Coe slipped on some ice and injured his back. In January, Coe underwent surgery for his injuries. The Department paid all of his medical bills. He remained under doctor's care for over a year and during that time he received weekly compensation from the Department. In March of 1979, Coe's doctor wrote a letter to the Department expressing his opinion that Coe was physically unable to return to his job as an equipment operator. His doctor wrote that Coe was unable to perform the frequent heavy lifting, bending, stooping, and operating heavy machinery which the job required.
Coe then filed a workers' compensation claim against the Department. In May, the Department sent a letter to Coe's doctor, inquiring again whether Coe had suffered any permanent disability. His doctor responded that Coe would not be able to return to his former position; that Coe was 20% permanently disabled; and that Coe could only perform work where there is no constant bending, stooping, heavy lifting, or working with heavy machinery. In December, Coe's doctor wrote the Department and again stated that Coe was entitled to 20% "permanent partial disability to the body as a whole."
In March of 1980, Coe and the Department began to discuss a possible settlement of Coe's workers' compensation claim. During these negotiations, a representative of the Department told Coe that there was no possibility of Coe returning to work with the Department. Coe then entered into a lump sum settlement agreement with the Department. The settlement agreement stated in part that:
"Respondent [the Department] offers to pay and Petitioner [Coe] agrees to accept the net lump sum of $17,974 representing 20% man as a whole in full, complete and final settlement of all claims arising or to arise from within-described accidents; subject, however, to the approval of the Illinois Industrial Commission."
In June, the settlement agreement was approved by the Industrial Commission.
In July, the Department sent Coe a letter explaining that because he was permanently disabled and unable to perform his job, and since his leave of absence was soon due to expire, he might wish to resign rather than be discharged. Coe responded to the letter by filing a motion to set aside the settlement agreement. After a hearing before the Industrial Commission, the agreement remained in force.
On July 11, Coe appeared at the Department's offices and alleged that he was ready and able to return to work in his former position. A Department representative told him that before he could return ...