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Mahoney v. Industrial Commission

January 12, 2005

ROBERT C. MAHONEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. UNITED AIRLINES, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 1st Judicial Circuit, Cook County, Illinois No. 03-L-050359. Honorable Dennis J. Burke Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge

In this matter, we are asked to determine whether the site of the contract for hire is the exclusive test for determining the applicability of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (Illinois Act or Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2002)) to persons whose employment is outside the state of Illinois where the contract for hire is made within Illinois. 820 ILCS 305/1(b)(2)(West 2202). We find that the contract for hire is the exclusive test in such cases, and the decision of the Illinois Industrial Commission to the contrary, that the site of the contract for hire is merely one factor to be considered within the totality of the arrangements, including significant contacts with Illinois, is erroneous. We reverse.

[9]     The facts herein are undisputed. The claimant, Robert C. Mahoney, a Florida resident, sought benefits under the Illinois Act for injuries he sustained while working for United Airlines (United) at its Orlando, Florida, facility on May 19, 1999, and January 2, 2001. The claimant was hired by United on January 6, 1969, to work as a ramp serviceman at O'Hare Field, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1993, after a divorce, Mahoney decided to relocate away from Chicago. Looking for "a chance to start his life over again," he requested a voluntary transfer to United's facility at the Orlando, Florida, International Airport. Transfers at United Airlines are done on a voluntary basis, and claimant had the necessary seniority to pick many locations throughout the United States. He chose Orlando, Florida, because of its warm weather. On his last day at work at O'Hare, the claimant turned all his O'Hare identification badges and cards into the employer. He then reported to the airport in Orlando, Florida, where he received new identification and passes. Upon his arrival in Florida, claimant purchased a home in the Orlando area. Since 1993 he has worked continuously for United Airlines in the State of Florida. The claimant has a Florida driver's license and pays all appropriate local and state taxes in that state. Although he has the right to do so, the claimant has never attempted to relocate back to Illinois or any other state.

On March 19, 1999, Mahoney sustained an accidental injury to his left foot while traversing up a flight of steps onto an airplane. The injury occurred in Orlando, Florida, while Mahoney was working, and medical treatment for the injury was provided in Orlando. The claimant received compensation under the Florida Workers' Compensation laws.

The claimant sustained a second accidental injury on January 2, 2001, when his left knee "just went out" while he was pushing a suitcase container. Again, the accident occurred and medical treatment was rendered in Orlando. Again, compensation was obtained for this injury under the Florida workers' compensation laws.

The arbitrator determined that Illinois lacked jurisdiction over the claimant's claim. In reaching this conclusion, the arbitrator relied upon the five factor test for determining jurisdiction laid out in Carroll v. Industrial Comm'n, 205 Ill. App. 3d 885, 890 (1990), and reiterated in United Airlines v. Industrial Comm'n (Rankins), 252 Ill. App. 3d 972, 981 (1993). Under Carroll and United Airlines (Rankins), jurisdiction is determined by: (1) the situs of the contract; (2) the continuity of the employment between the time of the contract and the time of injury; (3) whether the employment transfer from Illinois was voluntary; (4) the length of time between the employee's departure from Illinois and the injury; and (5) the significance of the employee's contact with Illinois following his departure from Illinois. Carroll, 205 Ill. App. 3d at 890; United Airlines (Rankins), 252 Ill. App. 3d at 981.

In the instant matter, the arbitrator found that only the situs of the original contract weighed in favor of Illinois jurisdiction. All other factors weighed against jurisdiction. The Commission adopted the arbitrator's ruling, noting that:

"The site of the contract for hire is not the exclusive test determining the applicability of the Act, but is only one of the factors the Commission is to consider within the totality of the arrangements. Another factor to be considered is the significance of the of claimants' contacts with Illinois. The Act does not create a perpetual right to claimants who transfer to another state to recover benefits for work-related injuries in the new state of residence when the claimant has voluntarily severed relations with Illinois. United Airlines v. Industrial Comm'n., 252 Ill. App. 3d 972."

The Circuit Court of Cook County confirmed the Commission's decision.

The claimant appeals.

The development of the law on this issue is somewhat confusing. Beginning as we must, with the express language of the Act, the issue would appear simple. The plain language of the Act clearly states that site of the contract for hire is the exclusive test for determining the applicability of the Act to persons whose employment is outside Illinois where the contract of hire is made within Illinois. Employees covered by the Act include "[e]very person in the service of another under any contract of hire, express or implied, oral or written, including persons whose employment is outside the State of Illinois where the contract for hire is made within the State of Illinois. * * * " 820 ILCS 305/1(b)(2)(West 2002).

In Severin v. Industrial Comm'n., 363 Ill. 217 (1936), our supreme court repeated what was by then a long held proposition that the Act grants coverage to workers injured outside Illinois where the contract for employment was entered into in Illinois. 363 Ill. at 219 ("We have repeatedly held that the Industrial Commission had no jurisdiction in cases where injuries were sustained outside the state unless the proof showed a contract for employment in Illinois." (Emphasis added.)).

In Morris v. Industrial Comm'n., 55 Ill. 2d 563 (1973), our supreme court again was asked to address the question of coverage under the Act for a person injured in another state. In Morris, the claimant was injured while working in Indiana after having been sent to the Indiana employer as a result of a call to the claimant's union hall in Danville, Illinois. The claimant sought benefits under the Illinois Act. The court noted that "[t]he only issue in this case is whether the contract of hire was made in Illinois or Indiana." 55 Ill. 2d at 564. The court held that the contract for hire was not entered into until the claimant reported to the Indiana work site. 55 Ill. 2d at 565.

Our supreme court next visited this issue again in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 79 Ill. 2d 425 (1980). In Youngstown, an employee was hired to work in Youngstown's South Chicago, Illinois coke plant. The employee worked at that job for several years. The employer then notified the employee and his union of its intention to close the South Chicago facility, which it did shortly thereafter. After the employee's last day of employment, the employee immediately applied for work with other employers. Also at that time, the employee sought unemployment benefits. After three months without a job, the employee became aware of a job possibility at Youngstown's Gary, Indiana, plant. He applied, was interviewed, and subsequently was hired at the Indiana facility. The job for which he was hired was not the same job he had previously held in Illinois. 79 Ill. 2d at 427. However, after completing a probationary period, the employee was converted to permanent status. Under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement ...


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