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Jones v. Industrial Commission

November 18, 1999

LOUIS K. JONES, APPELLANT, V. THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (SEA SPRITE BOAT COMPANY, APPELLEE).


Agenda 14-March 1999.

JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court:

Section 19(f)(1) of the Workers' Compensation Act (the Act) (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)) requires a party seeking judicial review of a decision of the Industrial Commission (the Commission) to file a request for summons with the clerk of the circuit court within 20 days of the receipt of notice of the Commission's decision. Section 19(f)(1) also provides that "no request for a summons may be filed and no summons shall issue" unless the party seeking judicial review exhibits to the clerk of the circuit court proof that the probable cost of preparing the record of proceedings has been paid to the Commission.

The question presented in this appeal is whether the circuit court obtained subject matter jurisdiction over an appeal from the Commission when the party seeking review filed a request for summons in the circuit court within the required 20-day period, and exhibited proof of payment for the probable cost of the record within the 20-day period, but exhibited the proof of payment after filing the request for summons. The appellate court held that jurisdiction did not vest in the circuit court. No. 1-97-1810WC (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court.

Background

On December 2, 1991, the petitioner, Louis K. Jones, filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Commission in which he alleged that he was injured in an accident during the course of his employment with the respondent, Sea Sprite Boating Company. Following an ex parte hearing, an arbitrator determined that petitioner was permanently totally disabled and that he was entitled to substantial benefits. On appeal, the Commission reversed the arbitrator's decision. The Commission concluded that there was no evidence to show that petitioner had notified respondent of his injury within 45 days of the accident, as required by the Act (820 ILCS 305/6(c) (West 1996)).

Thereafter, petitioner sought judicial review of the Commission's decision pursuant to section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996)). Section 19(f)(1) provides that judicial review of a decision of the Commission is initiated by filing a request for a summons with the clerk of the circuit court. This request for summons must be filed within 20 days of the receipt of notice of the decision. Section 19(f)(1) also provides that "no request for a summons may be filed and no summons shall issue unless the party seeking to review the decision of the Commission shall exhibit to the clerk of the Circuit Court proof of payment" of the probable cost of the record in the form of a receipt or an affidavit from an attorney that the cost has been paid. 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996).

Petitioner's attorney received the decision from the Commission on October 25, 1996. On November 8, 1996, petitioner's attorney filed a request for summons with the circuit court, and the summons was issued on the same day. The summons instructed respondent and the Commission to file their appearances in the circuit court by December 24, 1996. Within 20 days of the receipt of the Commission's decision, on November 14, 1996, petitioner's attorney filed an affidavit with the clerk of the circuit court stating that a payment of $35 had been made to the Commission for the probable cost of preparing the record.

Subsequently, respondent filed a motion to dismiss petitioner's appeal. Respondent maintained that petitioner had failed to strictly comply with the requirements of section 19(f)(1) and, therefore, that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over petitioner's appeal. According to respondent, the summons should not have been issued prior to the exhibition of proof that the $35 fee for preparing the record had been paid to the Commission. The circuit court agreed and granted respondent's motion to dismiss.

The appellate court, with two Justices Dissenting, affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. No. 1-97-1810WC (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). The majority reasoned that strict compliance with section 19(f)(1) is necessary to vest the circuit court with jurisdiction. The Dissenting Justices, in contrast, stated that denying petitioner judicial review elevated form over substance. In the view of the Dissenting Justices, the court's attention should not have been focused "on the order in which the tasks were completed" but on "the fact that petitioner fulfilled all requirements within the requisite 20 days." The two Dissenting Justices certified the cause for further review, and we granted petitioner's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a).

Analysis

Section 19(f)(1) of the Workers' Compensation Act provides in pertinent part:

"[T]he Circuit Court *** shall by summons to the [Industrial] Commission have power to review all questions of law and fact presented by such record.

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, not less than 10 or more than 60 days from the date of issuances thereof ***. ***

***

In its decision on review the Commission shall determine in each particular case the amount of the probable cost of the record to be filed as a part of the summons in that case and no request for a summons may be filed and no summons shall issue unless the party seeking to review the decision of the Commission shall exhibit to the clerk of the Circuit Court proof of payment by filing a receipt showing payment or an affidavit of the attorney setting forth that payment has been made ***." 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 1996).

Respondent maintains that section 19(f)(1) requires strict compliance with all its provisions. Respondent contends that the request for summons which was filed on November 8, 1996, was improper because no proof of payment of costs was exhibited to the clerk of the circuit court. Therefore, according to respondent, the summons which was issued in response to ...


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