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Westinghouse Airbrake Co. v. Industrial Commission

July 29, 1999

WESTINGHOUSE AIRBRAKE CO., APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (OPHIE D. BROOK, SURVIVING SPOUSE OF LAWRENCE H. BROOK, APPELLEE). HOWARD PRINTING COMPANY AND CNA INSURANCE COMPANIES, APPELLANTS,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (BERTHA HELLER, SURVIVING SPOUSE OF LYLE HELLER, APPELLEE). HOWARD PRINTING COMPANY AND CNA INSURANCE COMPANIES, APPELLANTS,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (LYLE HELLER, APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County. No. 97-MR-179 Honorable Richard E. Grawey, Judge, Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County. No. 97-MR-108 Honorable Richard E. Grawey, Judge, Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County. No. 97-MR-109 Honorable Richard E. Grawey, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell

This matter comes before the court as an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308(a). 155 Ill. 2d R. 308(a). We are asked to determine the following questions of law:

"(a) Whether claims for injuries due to asbestos exposure can be brought under the Workers' Compensation Act.

(b) Whether Section 1(f) of the Occupational Disease (sic) Act applies to claims of injury from asbestos exposure once such claim is brought under the Workers' Compensation Act.

(c) Whether in cases 97 MR 108 and 97 MR 109 the Circuit Court is deprived of subject matter jurisdiction where the plaintiff received the Industrial Commission's Decisions on February 27, 1997, delivered her request for summons and required fees to the Circuit Court Clerk on March 19, 1997, during regular office hours and prior to closing time of the clerk's office, but where the request for summons was not file stamped until March 20, 1997, but prior to opening of the Clerk's office."

Appellate court review pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308(a) is limited to those questions certified by the trial court. McGurk v. Lincolnway Community School District No. 210, 287 Ill. App. 3d 1059, 1062 (1997).

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Claimant, Lyle Heller (Lyle), retired from his employment with respondent, Howard Printing Company (Howard), in 1978. On October 15, 1992, Lyle filed an application for adjustment of claim (No. 92-WC- 52213) against Howard under the provisions of the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/1 et seq. (West 1996)). Lyle later filed an additional application for adjustment of claim (No. 93-WC-05197) against Howard, also under the provisions of the Occupational Diseases Act. Subsequently thereafter, Lyle Heller amended his applications to include respondent, CNA Insurance Companies (CNA). In addition, Lyle amended his applications to seek benefits under the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)), rather than the Occupational Diseases Act. When Lyle died in 1994, claimant, Bertha Heller (Bertha), Lyle's widow, filed an application for adjustment of claim (No. 95-WC-13909) on March 14, 1995, against respondents, Howard and CNA, seeking benefits under the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act.

Lawrence H. Brook (Lawrence) last worked for respondent, Westinghouse Airbrake Co. (Westinghouse), on January 31, 1976. Lawrence died on August 15, 1993. On June 19, 1995, claimant, Ophie D. Brook, Lawrence's surviving spouse, filed an application for adjustment of claim (No. 93-WC-39505) against Westinghouse seeking benefits under the provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act.

In each case, the respondents filed motions to dismiss, and the arbitrator dismissed the claimants' applications. The arbitrator found that the claimants improperly filed their claims under the Workers' Compensation Act and that the statute of limitations in section 1(f) of the Occupational Diseases Act barred their claims.

Each of the claimants filed petitions for review, and the Commission affirmed. In the Heller appeals, the Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision and further added that even if the Heller claims were considered repetitive or specific trauma cases, there was no manifestation or disablement until 1991, and therefore those cases would fail since there was no statutory notice. In the Brook appeal, the Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision without further comment.

The claimants in each case sought judicial review, and the circuit court of Peoria County consolidated all of the cases (Bertha, 97-MR-108; Lyle, 97-MR-109; and Brook 97-MR-179). The circuit court then reversed and remanded each of the cases. The circuit court also granted the parties' motion for a rule 308(a) finding.

This court granted the claimants' petitions for leave to appeal pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308(a) and further granted Westinghouse's motion to consolidate the appeals (Heller, 3-98-0470; ...


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