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Unilever Best Foods North America v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

June 19, 2007

UNILEVER BEST FOODS NORTH AMERICA, APPELLANT,
v.
ILLINOIS WORKERS COMPENSATION COMMISSION, ET AL., (TIMOTHY COLLOFELLO, APPELLEE).



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY No. 06 L 50457. HONORABLE RITA M. NOVAK, JUDGE PRESIDING.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman

Workers' Compensation Commission Division

NOTICE Decision filed 06/19/07. The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.

Unilever Best Foods North America (Unilever) appeals from an order of the Circuit Court of Cook County dismissing its petition for judicial review of a decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). We affirm.

The facts of this case are not in dispute. The claimant, Timothy Collofello, filed an application for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2004)), seeking benefits for injuries he alleged that he received while in the employ of Unilever on June 14, 2004. Following a hearing held pursuant to section 19(b) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(b) (West 2004)), an arbitrator issued a decision in which he found that the claimant suffered accidental injuries on June 14, 2004, arising out of and in the course of his employment with Unilever. The arbitrator awarded the claimant temporary total disability benefits under the Act at the rate of $590.24/week for a period of 11 5/7 weeks and ordered Unilever to pay $14,338.77 for medical services provided to the claimant.

Unilever filed a petition for review of the arbitrator's decision before the Commission. In a unanimous decision, the Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision and remanded the matter back to the arbitrator for further proceedings pursuant to Thomas v. Industrial Comm'n, 78 Ill. 2d 327, 399 N.E.2d 1322 (1980).

Unilever filed a petition for judicial review of the Commission's decision in the Circuit Court of Cook County. When it filed its action for judicial review, Unilever filed a bond executed by one of its attorneys, Sandy Echeveste. In addition to the bond, Unilever filed a "Statement of Authority in Support of Bond" pursuant to the terms of which Mark F. Slavin, its attorney, was authorized to sign the bond filed with the circuit court as principal in lieu of one of Unilever's corporate officers. The document was signed by Barry A. Patterson, Unilever's human resource manager.

The claimant moved to quash the summons issued by the clerk of the court and dismiss the review action for a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction by reason of Unilever's failure to file a bond in accordance with the provisions of section 19(f)(2) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 2004)). Specifically, the claimant asserted both that Patterson is not one of Unilever's corporate officers and, therefore, lacked the authority to sign the "Statement of Authority in Support of Bond," and that the individual who actually signed the bond on behalf Unilever as principal was not the person authorized to do so pursuant to the terms of the "Statement of Authority in Support of Bond."

Unilever filed a response to the claimant's motion attached to which were the affidavits of Barry A. Patterson and Mark F. Slavin. In Patterson's affidavit he stated that he was "authorized to bind Best Foods/Unilever including as to signing a Statement of Authority in support of Bond." He also stated that he "authorized Mark F. Slavin, Slavin & Slavin, or his associate Attorneys working under his direction to sign the Statement of Authority in Support of Bond Form." Slavin stated in his affidavit that "Best Foods/Unilever has extended authorization to *** Mark F. Slavin, and to Slavin & Slavin, including any Associate Attorney working under my direction and hereby ratify that Attorney Sandy Echeveste, was authorized to sign the Statement of Authority in Support of Bond and Bond Certiorari on my behalf." The response and attached affidavits were filed with the circuit court more than 20 days after Unilever's receipt of the Commission's decision.

The circuit court granted the claimant's motion and dismissed Unilever's action for judicial review of the Commission's decision. Thereafter, Unilever filed the instant appeal.

In urging reversal of the circuit court's order dismissing its action, Unilever appears to argue that the bond which it filed satisfied the provisions of section 19(f)(2) of the Act because it was signed by an associate attorney at Slavin & Slavin working under the direction of Mark F. Slavin who was authorized to sign the bond on Unilever's behalf. Unilever relies in support of its argument upon this court's decision in First Chicago v. Industrial Comm'n, 294 Ill. App. 3d 685, 691 N.E.2d 134 (1998).

In First Chicago, we held that the corporate plaintiff should have been allowed to present evidence more than 20 days after receipt of the Commission's decision, establishing that the individual who signed its bond was a corporate officer with authority to sign the bond and bind the corporation. First Chicago, 294 Ill. App. 3d at 689. As a consequence, we reversed the dismissal of First Chicago's action for judicial review of a Commission decision and remanded the matter back to the circuit court with directions to allow First Chicago to present evidence as to the identity of the individual who signed its bond and, if appropriate, consider the merits of First Chicago's petition for review. First Chicago, 294 Ill. App. 3d at 692. For the reasons which follow, however, we find First Chicago distinguishable and Unilever's reliance upon its holding misplaced.

Section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 2004)) sets forth the requirements for seeking a judicial review of a Commission decision. The statute provides that a proceeding for review must be commenced within 20 days of the receipt of notice of the Commission's decision. It also provides that, within that 20-day period, a written request for the issuance of a summons must be made. 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 2004). However, before a summons can be issued, a bond must be tendered to the clerk of the court. 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 2004). That bond must be executed by the party against whom the Commission rendered its award. 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 2004); Deichmueller Construction Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 151 Ill. 2d 413, 414, 603 N.E.2d 516 (1992).

In Berryman Equipment v. Industrial Comm'n, 276 Ill. App. 3d 76, 79, 657 N.E.2d 1039 (1995), we held that evidence of an attorney's authority to sign a bond as principal in lieu of a corporate officer of a party to a judicial review action must be filed with the bond in order to invoke subject-matter jurisdiction under the Act. In this case, Echeveste signed the bond as "attorney for" Unilever. However, the "Statement of Authority in Support of Bond" which was filed with the bond authorized only Mark F. Slavin to execute a bond on behalf of Unilever. Nevertheless, Unilever, relying upon ...


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