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Peabody Coal Co. v. Industrial Commission

June 30, 2004



Justices: Honorable Thomas E. Hoffman, J., Honorable John T. McCullough, P.J., Honorable Thomas E. Callum, J., Honorable William E. Holdridge, J., and Honorable Richard P. Goldenhersh, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman


Peabody Coal Company (Peabody) appeals from an order of the circuit court confirming a decision of the Industrial Commission (Commission), awarding the claimant, Ronald York, benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)). For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

The claimant filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Act, alleging that, while in the employ of Peabody, he injured his back as he was lifting a spring from a haulage truck. Following a hearing, an arbitrator found that the claimant sustained accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of his employment with Peabody and that, as a result, he is permanently and totally disabled. The arbitrator awarded the claimant temporary total disability (TTD) benefits for the 119 week period from March 13, 1997, through June 25, 1999, and permanent total disability (PTD) benefits in the sum of $476.37 per week for life, commencing on June 25, 1999.

Peabody sought a review of the arbitrator's decision before the Commission. The case was assigned to a panel consisting of Commissioners Gilgis, Kinnaman, and Rink, and the matter was argued on December 11, 2002. A decision in the matter was issued by the Commission on February 10, 2003. That decision was authored by Commissioner Gilgis with Commissioner Kinnaman concurring. Diane Ford issued a concurring opinion which states that, subsequent to oral argument and "prior to the departure of Commissioner Rink on December 31, 2002," a majority of the panel members had reached agreement as to the results of the review and she was signing the decision in accordance with the holding in Zeigler v. Industrial Comm'n, 51 Ill. 2d 137, 281 N.E.2d 342 (1972).

The decision of February 10, 2003, in which Ford specially concurred, modified the arbitrator's decision as it relates to the award of TTD and PTD benefits to the claimant. The Commission awarded the claimant TTD benefits for the 89 6/7 week period from March 13, 1997, through December 2, 1998, and PTD benefits for life commencing on December 2, 1998. In all other respects however, the arbitrator's decision was affirmed and adopted by the Commission.

Peabody sought a judicial review of the Commission's decision in the circuit court of Saline County. The circuit court confirmed the decision and this appeal followed.

In its initial brief before this court, Peabody argues that the Commission's award of PTD benefits to the claimant is against the manifest weight of the evidence and it requests that we reverse the Commission in this regard and award the claimant 50% loss of use of the body as a whole under section 8(d)(2) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(d)(2) (West 1996)). After the parties had briefed the case, this Court, sua sponte, entered an order directing them to file supplemental briefs addressing the issue of the validity of the Commission's decision as a result of Ford's participation. Neither party contested the validity of the Commission's decision before the circuit court.

The manner in which Ford came to be a member of the panel which issued and filed the Commission's written decision in this case is a matter of public record and was concisely set forth in our recent opinion in Shepard v. Industrial Comm'n, No. 1-03-0797WC, slip op. at 9 (April 28, 2004):

"Robert Madigan was appointed a Commissioner of the Illinois Industrial Commission for a term commencing on the third Monday in January 2001 and ending on January 17, 2005. When Madigan resigned, then Governor George Ryan sent a letter to the Illinois Secretary of State dated July 3, 2002, stating that, effective July 8, 2002, he made a temporary appointment of Paul Rink to the position formerly held by Commissioner Madigan 'until a permanent appointment can be made.' The letter also stated that Rink's appointment would expire on December 31, 2002. On that same day, Governor Ryan issued another letter to the Secretary of State appointing Ford as a commissioner, effective January 17, 2003, to the position held by Rink. Both appointments were transmitted to the Illinois Senate on November 21, 2002, and approved on December 4, 2002."

The Senate's record of confirmation lists Rink's appointment before that of Ford.

Prior to addressing the specific issue raised by Peabody on appeal, we will address the question of whether the Commission's decision is void as a matter of law.

The actions of an administrative agency for which there is no statutory authority are void and subject to attack at any time. Daniels v. Industrial Comm'n, 201 Ill. 2d 160, 166, 775 N.E.2d 936 (2002). Even in cases such as this where the parties have not raised the issue, the court has an independent duty to vacate and expunge void ...

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