Appeal from the Circuit Court of Douglas County; the Hon.
Frank W. Lincoln, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SPITZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
A hearing was held for the purpose of determining who was entitled to the proceeds of a settlement in a case entitled Page v. Hibbard. The settlement was for the amount of $24,000. The circuit court found that the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement (Department) was entitled to $12,000 of this amount plus accrued interest due to their statutory right of subrogation pursuant to section 5(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, par. 138.5(b)) and that Barbara L. Page was entitled to the remaining $12,000 plus accrued interest for loss of consortium. The circuit court also held that Raymond Lee, Jr., attorney for plaintiffs, was entitled to 25% of the amount received by the Department, pursuant to section 5(b) of the Act. The Department appeals the decision of the circuit court, alleging that section 5(b) of the Act entitles the Department to the entire proceeds of the settlement, and that plaintiff's attorney is not entitled to any of the money awarded to the Department. William F. Page filed a cross-appeal, claiming that he was entitled to $6,000 of the proceeds as compensation for pain and suffering.
We affirm in part and reverse in part.
William F. Page is a State trooper in the employ of the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement. On May 2, 1981, Mr. Page was informed that other officers were involved in a high-speed chase on Route 36 near Tuscola. Mr. Page proceeded in his squad car to the scene of the chase and employed a "rolling road block" to stop a car which he estimated to be travelling at a speed of approximately 100 miles per hour. By employing this maneuver, Mr. Page's squad car collided with a car driven by defendant Gene Hibbard, and owned by defendant Freda Brookmeyer.
Mr. Page suffered extensive injuries as a result of the collision, including muscle damage to his neck and left shoulder, and damage to his back. The injury to Mr. Page's back necessitated surgery for the removal of a disk. An arbitrator for the Industrial Commission of Illinois found that Mr. Page had a permanent partial disability to the extent of 18%.
As of May 6, 1985, the Department paid for defendant's medical bills in the amount of $9,868.15. The Department also made a payment to Page in the amount of $25,402.50, pursuant to a decision of the arbitrator of the Illinois Industrial Commission. Page also received $7,224.73 as compensation for salary lost due to the fact that he was unable to work for a period of time. The total amount the Department paid to or on behalf of Mr. Page was $42,495.39.
Mr. Page testified at the hearing that he still suffered pain as a result of his injuries. Mrs. Page testified that her husband no longer participates in many of the activities he previously enjoyed, and that her relationship with her husband has been significantly affected in a negative manner. Mrs. Page did not file a suit for loss of consortium; however, she did discuss her rights with an attorney.
Both defendants left the State of Illinois after the collision, and both defendants also filed for bankruptcy. The only asset that was available to satisfy claims arising out of the collision was an insurance policy with Cincinnati Insurance Company. This policy had a $25,000 liability limit.
The underlying suit was settled with the insurance company for $24,000. Both Mr. and Mrs. Page signed a document releasing defendants and their agents (i.e., the insurance company) from all claims they had arising from the collision described above. Mr. and Mrs. Page were both payees on the check issued by the insurance company.
The release contained the following language:
"It is expressly agreed that the consideration for this release includes and is in payment for the following elements of injury or damage allocated as follows:
1) to Barbara L. Page for loss of consortium $12,000.
2) to William F. Page for pain and suffering $6,000.
3) to William F. Page for all other elements of damage, including, but not limited to, medical expenses and physical disability $6,000."
The Department consented to the release of defendants and their insurance company, but did not consent to plaintiff's proposed distribution of the proceeds, as contained in the release. The Department filed a lien that was ...