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Department of Transportation v. Grawe

OPINION FILED MARCH 16, 1983.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,

v.

GEORGE B. GRAWE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT. — (CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.)



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Richard J. Cadagin, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE GREEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, the Illinois Department of Transportation (Department), appeals a judgment of the Sangamon County circuit court entered on July 12, 1982, affirming an order of the Civil Service Commission which provides that defendant Grawe be reinstated to his position as a highway maintainer with the Department.

The chain of events which gives rise to this litigation dates back to October 1977 when Grawe suffered a heart attack. He did not perform any work for the Department after October 21, 1977, but remained on the payroll through January 3, 1978, when he requested and received a leave of absence due to his inability to return to work. On January 25, 1978, following a determination by the Department's Central Claims Office that Grawe's heart attack was non-compensable because it was not work-related, Grawe filed a workers' compensation claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission. An arbitrator subsequently awarded Grawe $160.25 per week for life, for the reasons, inter alia, that the heart attack constituted "accidental injury arising out of and in the course of [Grawe's] employment" and that "the injuries sustained caused the complete disability of [Grawe], rendering [him] wholly and permanently incapable of work." On January 20, 1979, the Department petitioned the Industrial Commission for review of the arbitrator's decision.

Grawe underwent a successful coronary bypass operation on July 2, 1979. In October 1979, the Department and Grawe agreed upon a settlement of Grawe's workers' compensation claim. The settlement agreement which Grawe signed provides as follows:

"Thirty-five Thousand Dollars ($35,000.00) in a lump sum settlement, to include Fifteen Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00) medical expenses not paid to date, all other medical expenses being the obligation of the state. It is agreed and understood by all concerned that this is a full, final and complete settlement for all claims stemming from the injury described in this contract and it is expressly understood that neither party may reopen this case under any section of the Workman's Compensation Act. This lump sum settlement is requested to settle this disputed case."

On March 17, 1980, Dr. Jumonville, Grawe's personal physician, submitted a written statement to the Department to the effect that Grawe was fit to return to work, and during the same month Grawe requested that he be reinstated to his position as a highway maintainer. Grawe renewed this request in July 1980.

In December 1980, Grawe received a letter from the Department to the effect that he would either have to resign his position or be involuntarily terminated. Formal charges for discharge were filed against Grawe on January 2, 1981. The charges alleged that because Grawe represented to the Industrial Commission that he was "permanently and totally disabled," because the arbitrator ruled that Grawe was "totally disabled" and "wholly and permanently incapable of work," and because Grawe was "awarded the equivalent of a 40% permanent total disability," he was "estopped from denying that he had lost the ability to perform work for the Department."

At Grawe's request, a hearing on the charges was held before a hearing officer of the Civil Service Commission, who rejected the Department's contentions and recommended that Grawe be reinstated to his position with the Department. This decision was adopted and approved by the full Commission on April 16, 1981.

On May 22, 1981, the Department filed a complaint for administrative review of the Civil Service Commission's decision. Following a hearing, the Sangamon County circuit court rendered the following decision on July 9, 1981:

"The Court finds that the doctrine of estoppel does not apply in this case and that the decision of the Civil Service Commission that George P. Grawe was improperly discharged is in accord with the manifest weight of the evidence and is affirmed. The Court also believes that the question of whether or not Grawe should be reinstated was not decided and should be the subject of additional medical testimony. In the event the parties cannot enter into a stipulation on this point, then the matter is remanded for additional testimony. Cause stricken."

Since the parties could not agree as to Grawe's physical condition, a second hearing was held before a Civil Service Commission hearing officer on October 26, 1981. The hearing officer found that the record did not support the Department's contention that Grawe was unfit to perform the duties of a highway maintainer and recommended that he be reinstated in his former position. The Civil Service Commission adopted this recommendation on November 19, 1981.

On February 5, 1982, the circuit court ordered the Department to file a "Supplement to Complaint" and ordered Grawe to file an answer thereto. At the same time that he filed his answer to the Department's supplement to complaint, Grawe also filed a motion to dismiss the supplement to complaint on the ground that a copy thereof was not filed in the circuit court and a summons was not issued within 35 days of the date that a copy of the Civil Service Commission's decision of November 19, 1981, was served upon the Department. Following a hearing, the circuit court affirmed the decision of the Commission in an order filed on July 12, 1982. The court did not specifically rule upon Grawe's motion to dismiss the Department's supplement to complaint.

Before considering the merits of this case, we first address Grawe's contention that the circuit court erred in that it did not dismiss the Department's supplement to complaint. Section 3-103 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides in pertinent part:

"Commencement of action. Every action to review a final administrative decision shall be commenced by the filing of a complaint and the issuance of summons within 35 days from the date that a copy of the decision sought to be reviewed was served upon the ...


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