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03/28/96 CESAR JARABE v. INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION

March 28, 1996

CESAR JARABE, SR., INDIV. AND FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE ESTATE OF TOMASA ISMA JARABE, DECEASED, APPELLEE,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION (AMERICAN AIRLINES, INC., APPELLANT).



The Honorable Justice Heiple delivered the opinion of the court:

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Heiple

The Honorable Justice HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court:

After a hearing, the circuit court of Cook County declared unconstitutional, as a violation of due process and equal protection, section 7(i) of the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/7(i) (West 1992)). Section 7(i) limits the amount of death benefits payable to the dependents of a deceased employee if those dependents are aliens who do not reside in the United States, Mexico, or Canada. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Cesar Jarabe, Sr., and Tomasa Isma Jarabe, nonresident aliens residing in the Philippines, claimed worker's compensation benefits following the death of their daughter, Abundia Jarabe McLeod, who was killed while working as a baggage handler for the defendant, American Airlines. After an arbitration hearing, plaintiffs *fn1 were awarded $297.51 per week in death benefits under section 7(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act, which provides that where a deceased worker does not leave a surviving widow or child but does leave a surviving parent or parents who were totally dependent on the earnings of the deceased worker, the parent or parents are entitled to weekly benefits of two-thirds the average weekly wage of the deceased worker. 820 ILCS 305/7(b) (West 1992). However, the Arbitrator found that plaintiffs' statutory benefits were limited by section 7(i) of the Act, which provides in pertinent part:

"(i) Whenever the dependents of a deceased employee are aliens not residing in the United States, Mexico or Canada, the amount of compensation payable is limited to the beneficiaries described in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Section and is 50% of the compensation provided in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of this Section, except as otherwise provided by treaty." 820 ILCS 305/7(i) (West 1992).

Plaintiffs were thus awarded $148.75 each week for life, representing 50% of the $297.51 per week which plaintiffs would have been entitled to in the absence of section 7(i). Plaintiffs appealed the award of benefits to the Industrial Commission, which affirmed the decision of the arbitrator. Thereafter, plaintiffs appealed the Commission's decision to the circuit court. The circuit court ruled that section 7(i) of the Act is unconstitutional, as it violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Illinois and United States Constitutions.

Defendant appealed the circuit court's ruling to the appellate court. Upon plaintiffs' motion, the appeal was transferred to this court. 134 Ill. 2d R. 365(b).

I

Plaintiffs' primary contention on appeal is that section 7(i) of the Act violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Illinois and United States Constitutions. Defendant responds that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the statute on these grounds because nonresident aliens cannot avail themselves of these state or federal constitutional protections.

The fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution provides:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const., amend. XIV.

The Illinois Constitution provides that "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law nor be denied the equal protection of the laws." Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, ยง 2.

This court uses the same analysis in assessing equal protection claims under both the federal and the State Constitutions. People v. Reed, 148 Ill. 2d 1, 7, 169 Ill. Dec. 282, 591 N.E.2d 455 (1992). The standards governing the due process and ...


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