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Forest Preserve District of Cook County v. Industrial Commission

May 25, 1999

FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF COOK COUNTY, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (RICHARD MICHALAK, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 98-L-0340 Honorable Alexander White, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell

Respondent, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, appeals an order of the circuit court of Cook County dismissing respondent*s appeal from the Industrial Commission (Commission) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The circuit court held that, pursuant to section 19(f)(1) of the Workers* Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)), its jurisdiction was lacking because respondent*s request to issue summons on claimant, Richard Michalak, did not list claimant*s last known address. We reverse.

Claimant was injured while working for respondent in September 1990 and in May 1991, and a consolidated hearing was subsequently held. Following the hearing, an arbitrator awarded claimant temporary totally disability (TTD) benefits for both injuries but denied claimant*s claims for permanent and total disability (PTD) benefits. The Commission affirmed in August 1996, and claimant appealed. The circuit court vacated and set aside the Commission's decision and remanded the cause to the Commission to reconsider the issue of whether the accidents rendered claimant permanently disabled.

In its decision on remand dated May 20, 1998, the Commission modified its August 1996 decision. The Commission awarded claimant TTD benefits from May 31, 1991 through June 23, 1993, and found claimant permanently disabled as of June 24, 1993.

Respondent attempted to appeal to the circuit court. Respondent filed the following documents with the clerk of the circuit court on April 8, 1998: (1) a request to issue summons, (2) a summons to claimant*s attorneys, (3) a summons to the Commission and (4) a certificate of mailing. All of the documents contained the correct case caption. The request to issue summons stated: "This is a written request to issue summons to [the Commission] and to Parties and Attorneys at below addresses [p]ursuant to 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1)." The request to issue summons named claimant and the Commission as parties in interest but provided no address for claimant. The request listed the name and address of the law firm representing claimant and the address of the Commission. The summons mentioned claimant's name twice--once in the case caption and once in the body. The certificate of mailing contained virtually the same information as the request to issue summons did--claimant and the Commission were named as parties in interest, the Commission*s address was given and the name and address of the law firm representing claimant were listed. However, like the request to issue summons, the certificate of mailing did not contain claimant*s address.

It is undisputed that claimant was never served with summons; in fact, no summons has ever been issued to claimant. It is also undisputed that claimant's attorneys were properly served.

On April 22, 1998, claimant's attorneys filed special and limited appearances and moved to quash the summons. They maintained that, by omitting claimant*s name from the request to issue summons, respondent failed to comply with section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)). Section 19(f)(1) provides in relevant part:

"A proceeding for review shall be commenced within 20 days of the receipt of notice of the decision of the Commission. The summons shall be issued by the clerk of such court upon written request returnable on a designated return day ***, and the written request shall contain the last known address of other parties in interest and their attorneys of record who are to be served by summons. *** The clerk of the court issuing the summons shall on the day of issue mail notice of the commencement of the proceedings which shall be done by mailing a copy of the summons to the office of the Commission, and a copy of the summons to the other parties in interest or their attorney or attorneys of record ***." (Emphasis added.) 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996).

According to claimant*s attorneys, the omission of claimant*s last known address divested the circuit court of subject matter jurisdiction over the case. The circuit court agreed, found the request for summons "fatally defective" and dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction.

Respondent brought this timely appeal. The two issues before us are, first, whether respondent*s failure to include claimant*s last known address in the request to issue summons deprived the circuit court of subject matter jurisdiction and, second, whether the circuit court had personal jurisdiction over claimant where claimant was never personally served with summons.

The circuit court*s jurisdiction to review a decision of the Commission is a special statutory power, limited by section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)). Sprinkman & Sons Corporation of Illinois v. Industrial Comm*n, 160 Ill. App. 3d 599, 600 (1987). As stated in Chambers v. Industrial Comm*n, 213 Ill. App. 3d 1, 3-4 (1991):

"Strict compliance with section 19(f)(1) is normally required before a circuit court is vested with subject matter jurisdiction. [Citations.] However, courts have found jurisdiction based on substantial compliance with the requirements of the statute [citations], and the tendency has been to simplify procedure, honor substance over form, and prevent technicalities from depriving a party of the right to be heard [citations]."

Respondent concedes that it did not include claimant*s address in the request to issue summons and that it therefore did not strictly comply with the requirements of section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)). Respondent nonetheless maintains that it substantially complied with the provisions of the statute by providing all of the necessary information in the request to issue summons except for claimant*s last known address. Respondent relies on several cases, including Chadwick v. Industrial Comm*n, 154 Ill. App. 3d 859 (1987), and Old Ben Coal Co. v. Industrial Comm*n, 217 Ill. App. 3d 70 (1991), in support of its position.

In Chadwick, the claimant filed a written request for circuit court review of a Commission decision. The claimant*s request included a praecipe and a certificate of mailing. Chadwick, 154 Ill. App. 3d at 860. (A praecipe, or written instruction to the clerk of the court, is the equivalent of a written request to issue summons. Luttrell v. Industrial Comm*n, 154 Ill. App. 3d 943 (1987).) The claimant*s praecipe named the respondent as a party in interest but did not include the respondent*s address. It also listed the name and address of the respondent*s attorney. The certificate of mailing, on the other hand, contained the respondent*s name and address, and the respondent was served with summons. The respondent subsequently filed a motion to quash the summons, arguing that the circuit court*s jurisdiction was ...


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