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First Chicago v. Industrial Commission

February 10, 1998

FIRST CHICAGO, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. SHARON SKALON, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 96-L-51004 Honorable Joanne Lannigan, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell delivered the opinion of the court:

Respondent, First Chicago, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County dismissing respondent's judicial review of the Industrial Commission's (Commission) order awarding benefits to claimant, Sharon Skalon, under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)). The circuit court held that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to review the Commission's decision. We reverse and remand with directions.

FACTS

The facts are undisputed. On June 27, 1995, an arbitrator entered an award in claimant's favor. On June 10, 1996, the Commission partially modified, but otherwise affirmed, the arbitrator's decision. On August 12, 1996, the Commission issued a corrected decision. Respondent claims, and claimant does not argue otherwise, that it received the Commission's decision on August 19, 1996.

On September 9, 1996, respondent timely filed documents in the circuit court of Cook County, including an appeal bond, to institute the judicial review of the Commission's decision. The appeal bond was signed as follows:

First Chicago /s/ John A. Bradley As principal

Safeco Insurance Company of America /s/ Theodore C. Sevier, Jr. As surety

Theodore C. Sevier, Jr., Attorney-in-Fact

On October 9, 1996, claimant filed a special and limited appearance and a motion to quash summons and dismiss the action. Claimant argued that the bond was insufficient to bind respondent because it was not signed by Mr. Bradley as an officer of respondent and did not indicate that Mr. Bradley was authorized to execute the bond on respondent's behalf. Claimant also complained that claimant's original summons erroneously referred to the June 10, 1996, Commission decision and contained an erroneous return date. Accordingly, claimant argued that respondent failed to comply with the 20-day statutory review period under section 19(f)(1) of the Act because an amended summons referring to the corrected decision date with a proper return date was not filed until October 15, 1996. On December 16, 1996, respondent filed its brief in response to claimant's motion wherein respondent identified Mr. Bradley as respondent's vice president - management of corporate insurance and as respondent's authorized agent.

In its decision, the circuit court made no findings of fact regarding Mr. Bradley's authority to bind respondent. Instead, the circuit court stated a single legal Conclusion--Mr. Bradley signed the bond individually. The circuit court rejected claimant's argument under section 19(f)(1) regarding the decision date and return date in the original summons but granted the motion to quash based on Mr. Bradley's failure to identify his authority and dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Respondent timely appealed.

ANALYSIS

When the facts upon an issue are undisputed and susceptible to but a single inference, as in this case, the issue is a question of law, and the circuit court's decision is not binding on this court. See Caterpillar Tractor Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 129 Ill. 2d 52, 60 (1989). Accordingly, based upon the undisputed facts in this case, we review the circuit court's decision as a question of law.

I. SECTION 19(F)(2)

A. Identification of Individual Signing Appeal Bond

In this case, we do not know Mr. Bradley's status with or relationship to respondent. The record contains no evidence identifying Mr. Bradley, and respondent's identification of Mr. Bradley as an officer in its brief in response to claimant's motion to dismiss is simply not evidence. As a result, we do not know whether Mr. Bradley is respondent's officer or someone else. Thus, the first issue is whether an individual signing an appeal bond (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 1996)) on behalf of a corporate respondent must identify on the appeal bond his or her status as an officer of the corporation in order to invoke the subject-matter jurisdiction of the circuit court under section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)). We find section 19(f)(2) does not contain such a requirement.

The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature, and that inquiry appropriately begins with the language of the statute. People v. Woodard, 175 Ill. 2d 435, 443 (1997). In this case, section 19(f)(2) provides in pertinent part: "No such summons shall issue unless the one against whom the Commission shall have rendered an award for the payment of money shall upon the filing of his written request for such summons file with the clerk of the court a bond conditioned that if he shall not ...


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