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03/27/96 MARGARET MANOR v. JOHN R. LUMPKIN

March 27, 1996

MARGARET MANOR, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JOHN R. LUMPKIN, DIRECTOR, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, AND THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Aaron Jaffe, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Tully delivered the opinion of the court: Rizzi, P.j., and Greiman, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully

JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendants, John R. Lumpkin, Director, Illinois Department of Public Health (the Department), and the State of Illinois, Department of Public Health, appeal from an order of the circuit court of Cook County reversing and setting aside the administrative findings of the Department that plaintiff, Margaret Manor, Inc., violated various provisions of the Skilled Nursing and Intermediate Care Facilities Code Rules and Regulations (77 Ill. Adm. Code § 300 (1990)). Jurisdiction is vested in this court pursuant to section 6 of article VI of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6) and Supreme Court Rule 301 (134 Ill. 2d R. 301).

For the reasons which follow, we vacate the order of the circuit court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The genesis of this case is an investigation into the care and treatment rendered to Stacy Talbert, a resident of plaintiff's nursing home, by plaintiff. After completing its investigation, the Department issued a notice of violations of various provisions of the Skilled Nursing and Intermediate Care Facilities Code Rules and Regulations (77 Ill. Adm. Code § 300 (1990)). An administrative hearing was held on April 23 and 24, 1992, on the matter. On July 30, 1992, a hearing officer issued a report and recommendation finding that the Department proved that plaintiff committed "Type B" violations of four provisions of various provisions of the Skilled Nursing and Intermediate Care Facilities Code Rules and Regulations.

On September 10, 1992, Lumpkin, as director of the Department, issued a "Proposed Final Decision and Order" adopting the hearing officer's findings of fact and rejecting the hearing officer's conclusions of law. Lumpkin found that the Department proved that plaintiff violated five provisions of the Skilled Nursing and Intermediate Care Facilities Code Rules and Regulations and that such violations constituted a single "Type A" violation. The "NOTICE OF PROPOSAL FOR DECISION" which accompanied the "Proposed Final Decision and Order", was dated September 11, 1992, and informed plaintiff that it could file exceptions to the "Proposed Final Decision and Order" within 21 days. No exceptions were filed. On October 1, 1992, prior to the issuance of Lumpkin's "Final Decision and Order", plaintiff filed with the circuit court a complaint for administrative review pursuant to section 3-713 of the Nursing Home Care Reform Act of 1979 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 111 1/2, par. 4153-713) and section 3-104 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 110, par. 3-104).

On October 7, 1992, Lumpkin issued his "Final Decision and Order", which was unchanged from the previously-issued "Proposed Final Decision and Order". On October 15, 1992, plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint for administrative review seeking to amend its original complaint to reflect Lumpkin's "Final Decision and Order", dated October 1, 1992. The circuit court granted plaintiff's motion for leave to file the amended complaint instanter on November 2, 1992. The record does not show the issuance of a summons on Lumpkin, as director of the Department, when the amended complaint was filed.

Subsequently, the circuit court, while noting that it did not take issue with the Department's finding of fact, reversed Lumpkin's"Final Decision and Order" on the basis that it was not issued within the 120-day time frame established by section 3-707 of the Nursing Home Care Reform Act of 1979 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 111 1/2, par. 4153-707). The instant appeal followed.

ISSUES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW

On appeal, defendants argue that: (1) the circuit court was without jurisdiction to enter a judgment in this case; (2) the circuit erred in reversing the Department's decision for failure to comply with the 120-day time frame contained in section 3-707 of the Nursing Home Care Reform Act of 1979; and (3) the Department's decision should be affirmed as it is not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

We now turn to defendant's position that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to render a judgment in this case. We agree with defendants.

Initially, we note that the question of whether the circuit court has jurisdiction over a case is a question of law ( Wolfe v. Industrial Commission (1985), 138 Ill. App. 3d 680, 93 Ill. Dec. 179, 486 N.E.2d 280) and, therefore, is subject to the appellate court's independent or de novo review. South Suburban Safeway Lines, Inc. v. Regional Transportation Authority (1988), 166 Ill. App. 3d 361, 116 Ill. Dec. 790, 519 N.E.2d 1005; see also T. O'Neill ...


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