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King v. Industrial Commission

January 21, 2000

JOE W. KING, APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (R.R. DONNELLY, APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic

Agenda 36-September 1999.

This appeal involves the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)). The narrow question presented is whether a claimant who has been awarded permanent total disability under section 8(f) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(f) (West 1996)) may later be required to submit to an employer-requested medical examination under section 12 of the Act (820 ILCS 305/12 (West 1996)), even where the employer has not filed a petition seeking to modify the claimant's benefits pursuant to section 8(f) or 19(h) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(h) (West 1996)). We answer in the affirmative.

BACKGROUND

Claimant, Joe W. King, sought an adjustment of claim for a shoulder injury that he sustained in 1986 while employed by respondent, R.R. Donnelly (employer). The arbitrator awarded claimant temporary total disability for 154 2/7 weeks and permanent total disability for life (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 48, pars. 138.8(b), (f)). The Industrial Commission (Commission) affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator in 1991. The Commission held that claimant established his permanent total disability under section 8(f) of the Act. The Commission determined that claimant fell within the "odd-lot" category because, although claimant was not altogether incapacitated for work, his condition was such that he will not be employed regularly in any well-known branch of the labor market. In making this determination, the Commission considered the claimant's physical impairment along with the following factors: that claimant was 59 years of age (in 1991); that claimant had completed the third grade and was functionally illiterate; and that claimant had worked as an unskilled laborer for employer for 17 years. The record also disclosed that claimant had made a diligent but unsuccessful job search and that his attempt at vocational rehabilitation had failed. Neither party appealed.

Years later, on April 17, 1996, employer filed with the Commission a motion to suspend claimant's compensation under section 12 of the Act (820 ILCS 305/12 (West 1996)). Employer argued that claimant's compensation should be suspended because claimant refused to comply with its section 12 request for a medical examination. The Commission held a hearing on the motion. Correspondence between the parties showed that claimant had refused to comply with employer's request on the advice of counsel.

Following the hearing, the Commission denied employer's motion to suspend claimant's compensation for his refusal to submit to a medical exam. The Commission ruled that a suspension of compensation was not warranted under the facts of this case. The Commission explained that, because claimant had qualified for permanent total disability under the odd-lot doctrine, claimant's physical condition was not the only factor contributing to his award. Other factors were claimant's age and his limited education, training and work experience. According to the Commission, employer thus failed to prove sufficient grounds on which to suspend compensation. The Commission, however, interpreted section 12 as granting employer the right to a medical exam. It therefore held that section 12 required claimant to submit to a medical exam and ordered him to do so.

The circuit court confirmed the decision of the Commission. Claimant then appealed, challenging only that portion of the Commission's order requiring him to submit to a medical exam.

The Industrial Commission division of the appellate court initially issued a unanimous opinion reversing that portion of the Commission's order requiring claimant to submit to a medical exam. On rehearing, however, the appellate court withdrew that opinion and issued a new opinion affirming that portion of the order requiring claimant to submit to a medical exam. 301 Ill. App. 3d 958. Two of the five justices dissented. Subsequently, three justices of the appellate court filed a statement that this case involves a substantial question warranting the consideration of this court. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). We allowed claimant's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a). We now affirm the judgment of the appellate court, for the reasons explained below.

ANALYSIS

There is no dispute in this appeal regarding whether claimant's compensation should have been suspended under section 12 for his failure to submit to a medical exam. The Commission held that a suspension was not warranted. Employer waived its right to challenge this holding before the appellate court and likewise does so here.

This appeal concerns only the propriety of the order requiring claimant to submit to a medical exam. To be precise, the issue is whether claimant, who received an award of permanent total disability under section 8(f), may now be required to submit to employer's request for a medical examination under section 12, even though employer has not filed a petition to modify claimant's benefits pursuant to section 8(f) or section 19(h).

Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. Sun Choi v. Industrial Comm'n, 182 Ill. 2d 387, 392 (1998). The primary goal of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. Kraft, Inc. v. Edgar, 138 Ill. 2d 178, 189 (1990). The best indication of legislative intent is the statutory language, given its plain and ordinary meaning. Illinois Graphics Co. v. Nickum, 159 Ill. 2d 469, 479 (1994); Kraft, Inc., 138 Ill. 2d at 189. Moreover, courts afford considerable deference to the interpretation placed on a statute by the agency charged with its administration. Denton v. Civil Service Comm'n, 176 Ill. 2d 144, 148 (1997); City of Decatur v. American Federation of State, County, & Municipal Employees, Local 268, 122 Ill. 2d 353, 361 (1988). In light of these principles, we turn to the statutory provisions at issue.

Section 8(f) provides, in relevant part:

"In case of complete disability, which renders the employee wholly and permanently incapable of work *** ...


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