Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, County Department, Law Division, Tax and Miscellaneous Remedies Section. No. 94L50237. Honorable Alexander P. White, Judge, Presiding.
Released for Publication December 21, 1995.
The Honorable Justice Colwell delivered the opinion of the court: McCULLOUGH, P.j., and Rakowski, Holdridge and Rarick, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colwell
JUSTICE COLWELL delivered the opinion of the court:
Lauren Beattie, widow of Marshall Beattie, and as next friend of Mark Beattie (the decedent's minor son), appeals the Commission's denial of Worker's Compensation death benefits from her late husband's employer, Hanley Dawson Cadillac d/b/a Patrick Volvo, Inc. The arbitrator found that Marshall Beattie's death occurred in the course of his employment and awarded benefits. The Commission determined that Beattie's death did not occur in the course of his employment, and thus denied benefits. The circuit court confirmed the Commission. The sole issue on appeal is whether the Commission's determination that Beattie's death did not occur in the course of his employment was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm.
Marshall Beattie was the general sales manager at Patrick Volvo. During the week of his death, Patrick was conducting a "midnight madness" sale, meaning the dealership remained open for business until 12 a.m. each evening. The decedent arrived home well after midnight on Monday and Tuesday nights the week he died, and then arose early enough to be back in his office for the start of business the next morning. Beattie left for work at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, December 7, 1988. At about 8 p.m., Beattie phoned his wife and told her that he would once again be home late, as he had to meet with Richard Madonia, the dealership's finance manager, who had just informed Beattie of his intention to resign.
That evening Beattie, Madonia and general manager Richard Fisher met at a restaurant called Chianti's. Each of the three men drove their dealership-owned demonstrator cars to the restaurant. Fisher bought a round of drinks. Fisher testified before the arbitrator that he was present merely as a moderator of the discussion between Madonia and Beattie. Madonia testified that he was dissatisfied with his compensation and range of responsibilities at Patrick, and Beattie, as his immediate supervisor, was trying to negotiate with him and talk him into staying at the dealership. Each of the men had several drinks. Sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, the three men left Chianti's in their individual cars and drove to Tarragon's, another restaurant. When the three arrived at Tarragon's, Fisher announced that he wouldn't go inside because he was very tired and wanted to go home. Beattie and Madonia went into Tarragon's.
Madonia testified that Beattie had one or two drinks at Chianti's and one or two at Tarragon's. Respondent's counsel attempted to impeach Madonia with his previous statement to police that he did not know how much Beattie had to drink, but Madonia testified that he did not remember making such a statement.
Madonia testified that he and Beattie continued to discuss whether he would stay at Patrick while they were at Tarragon's. Madonia said his decision to stay at least until the next year's compensation levels were announced was finalized at Tarragon's. Fisher was asked whether he thought the question of Madonia's resignation was resolved by the time the trio left Chianti's. He answered:
"Not necessarily. These things are never -- You know, if I were to sit here and tell you the book was closed, then I would be lying. If I were to sit here and tell you that it was my impression that he would probably be staying with the right policies and procedures, then yes."
Madonia testified that he last saw Beattie at approximately 1 a.m. He said Beattie seemed able to stand without wobbling and to walk in a normal manner and that he could converse professionally. Madonia did not see Beattie leave, but believed he left around 1 a.m. or shortly thereafter.
Beattie drove his demo car onto I-90 (Northwest Tollway/Kennedy Expressway) headed in the direction of his home on Chicago's north side. At about 1:35 a.m. on Thursday, December 8, 1988, Beattie's car rear-ended a semi-truck. Beattie died at the scene. The coroner's report found that Beattie's blood alcohol level was .197 percent, and that his death resulted from multiple injuries suffered in the collision.
Before the arbitrator, Patrick introduced a report from Dr. DelBoccio stating his expert opinion that the level of alcohol in Beattie's blood would have caused at least a moderate degree of deterioration in judgment, decreased muscular coordination, slowed reaction time to stimuli and some degree of visual impairment. He also opined that Beattie would have had to ingest approximately ten mixed drinks or ten bottles of beer to reach such a blood alcohol concentration. The petitioner did not present any rebuttal to the expert's report.
The arbitrator found Madonia's testimony that he and Beattie continued to discuss business while at Tarragon's to be credible, and found that Beattie was within the scope of his employment at Tarragon's and he left there to drive home in transportation provided by his employer. Therefore, the arbitrator ruled, he was acting within the scope of his employment at the instant of his death. The ...