Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greiman
JUSTICE GREIMAN delivered the opinion of the court:
In this action alleging retaliatory discharge by defendant County of Cook, plaintiff Bruno Halleck appeals orders of the trial court which found that the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act) (745 ILCS 10/1-101 et seq. (West 1992)) applies to such causes of action; the Act's one-year statute of limitation (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1992)) bars his complaint; and the doctrine of equitable estoppel, as a matter of law, does not apply.
The two issues raised on appeal are (1) whether a retaliatory dischargeclaim against a governmental entity is subject to the one-year limitation period provided in the Act or the five-year statute of limitations provided in the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-205 (West 1992)) and (2) whether the doctrine of equitable estoppel precludes the defense of the statute of limitations.
On July 8, 1989, plaintiff sustained injuries in an accident related to his employment as a truck driver for the Department of Highways. Plaintiff had worked in such capacity for approximately nine years. As a result of these injuries, plaintiff received some benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 1992)). However, plaintiff remained temporarily totally incapacitated for work from July 8, 1989, through June 1, 1990, and sought weekly payments in accordance with the Workers' Compensation Act.
Effective April 22, 1990, plaintiff was "separated from the payroll of the Cook County Highway Department" according to written notice provided to plaintiff by defendant on April 15, 1990. Defendant offered no reason for this action. At the time of separation plaintiff was receiving medical care for his injuries and asserting his right to receive weekly compensation for his temporary total incapacity.
On June 1, 1990, plaintiff was released by his treating physician to return to work. Defendant, however, refused and has continued to refuse to reinstate plaintiff to employment.
On June 13, 1990, an application for adjustment of claim was filed on behalf of plaintiff at the Illinois Industrial Commission. On July 19, 1990, a petition for immediate hearing was filed on behalf of plaintiff. On August 2, 1990, defendant filed a response which declared that temporary total disability benefits had been paid from July 6, 1989, to April 6, 1990, but that such benefits had been terminated because plaintiff "was observed engaging in manual labor while allegedly temporarily disabled and receiving Workers' Compensation payments from the County." In addition, defendant stated that plaintiff was no longer its employee. Trial was scheduled for September 19, 1990.
At the September 19, 1990, proceedings before the Industrial Commission, the assistant State's Attorney (Jean Marie Calcagno) represented defendant, reported that plaintiff was under criminal investigation for allegedly working while receiving temporary benefits and requested that the case be continued so that she could determine the nature of the investigation and evaluate possible settlement of plaintiff's claim. The trial was continued and plaintiff's workers' compensation claim was set for hearing on December 13, 1990.
On December 13, 1990, Assistant State's Attorney Calcagno requested that plaintiff "hold off any action" so that she could attempt to settle plaintiff's claim including resolution of the question of plaintiff's return to work with defendant. The trial was again continued and no action was taken regarding plaintiff's return to work.
On March 20, 1991, plaintiff's workers' compensation claim was again set for hearing. At this time Assistant State's Attorney Robert Scott appeared on behalf of defendant, requested that plaintiff's case be continued again and reported that at the next Cook County Board meeting scheduled for April 5, 1991, he would recommend the settlement of plaintiff's claim, including reinstatement as an employee with defendant, and that it would be approved.
On April 15, 1991, Assistant State's Attorney Scott advised plaintiff that the Cook County Board would not approve a settlement and referred to a video tape ...