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03/16/88 Janina Siemion, v. the Department of Public

March 16, 1988





522 N.E.2d 627, 168 Ill. App. 3d 187, 118 Ill. Dec. 957 1988.IL.366

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert L. Sklodowski, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE STAMOS delivered the opinion of the court. HARTMAN, P.J., and SCARIANO, J., concur.


The Department of Public Aid (the department) and the Director of Public Aid (the director) appeal from orders of the circuit court of Cook County reversing denial of appellee Janina Siemion's *fn1 application for medical assistance and denying appellants' motion to reconsider. Siemion's application had been denied after she failed to comply with written notices in English calling on her to provide documentation in support of her eligibility for medical assistance. The present appellant director was substituted for the former director during administrative review proceedings in the circuit court.

The controlling issue on appeal is whether appellants' denial of Siemion's application was contrary to Illinois law insofar as a departmental duty of assistance to her in pursuing her application was concerned. That was clearly the question decided by the circuit court's judgment.


On July 16, 1986, with the help of Siemion's landlord, an employee of the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics (the hospital) completed and sent to the Cook County Department of Public Aid (the county department) on Siemion's behalf a form designated DPA 450 and titled "Hospital Application for Medical Assistance." The application, which the county department received on July 17, sought help in paying for treatment being given since July 3 to Siemion's then-2 1/2-year-old son, Maciei Siemion, for head trauma, which Siemion's later testimony at a departmental hearing appeared to say was the result of his falling from a second-story window.

As submitted, the application set forth the name, address, and telephone number of Siemion and her son; her son's date of birth; and her landlord's name, address, and telephone number to "call in emergency." The application also stated that Siemion was single, had no assets, life insurance, or hospital insurance, and had paid nothing toward her son's hospital care. No answers were given to questions on the application form as to Siemion's or her son's birthplace, when they had come to Illinois, Siemion's social security number, the source of her income (if any), or why she sought help in paying for her son's care. *fn2 The application was signed on behalf of Siemion by J. B. Stone as the hospital's financial coordinator.

Testimony at the subsequent administrative hearing revealed that Siemion neither speaks nor reads English; that neither her father-in-law nor her mother-in-law, with whom she was living, speaks English; and that Siemion's landlord, who could translate for her, had helped the hospital employee to complete the application form. The form contained no question as to Siemion's language ability, and as submitted the application did not specify that Siemion could not understand English.

After receiving the application from the hospital, the county department mailed to Siemion on July 28, 1986, a form *fn3 designated DPA 267 and titled "Instructions to Client" on the letterhead of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. This form was entirely in English except for a caption advising in Spanish that it was a very important notification affecting its recipient's eligibility and that if the recipient did not understand English, an interpreter should be sought.

Through a process of checking boxes, filling blanks with abbreviations and rubberstamped legends, writing disconnected phrases above printed information, and requiring the recipient to ignore other blocks of inapplicable printed information for which boxes were left unchecked, the department sought to inform Siemion that her " Mang APPLICATION INTERVIEW is scheduled for (date) 8/11/86 at a.m./p.m." (Italics

Appearing next on the form was a paragraph of inapplicable printed language and blank spaces, followed by a lengthy printed list of mostly documentary items preceded by boxes, many of which were checked. Among the items checked were one reading simply "Money from other sources (loans, gifts from friends, relatives, rental income, boarders, etc.)" and one reading (in print and handwriting) "Other Room & board statement . "These latter two items would appear to the court as actually referring to records of money and to Siemion's son's hospital bill, but a recipient might have had some difficulty interpreting them. Above this list of items was handwritten the single word, "Mail."

The form's face thus consisted of one full page of closely printed alternative messages on which some blanks had been filled in handwriting and additional words had been handwritten. On the reverse were apparently still more "local office completion instructions." A copy ...

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