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Naresh Patel v. Home Depot Usa

February 2, 2012

NARESH PATEL,
PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
HOME DEPOT USA, INC.,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT
THE HOME DEPOT, INC., AND SEDGWICK CLAIMS MANAGEMENT SERVICES, INC., RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 09 L 51666 Honorable James C. Murray, Jr., Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Sterba

JUSTICE STERBA delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Lavin and Justice Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 This appeal arises out of the circuit court's entry of judgment against respondent-appellant Home Depot USA, Inc. (Home Depot), pursuant to section 19(g) of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2008)). Petitioner-appellee Naresh Patel was injured while working for Home Depot and received an award of benefits from an arbitrator that was confirmed by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). Home Depot was granted a credit by the arbitrator in excess of the amount of the benefits award. The credit was also affirmed by the Commission. When Home Depot did not pay the award, Patel filed a petition in circuit court for judgment on the award and also requested penalties under section 19(g) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2008)). The circuit court entered judgment against Home Depot for the amount of the benefits award, and later awarded Patel attorney fees, costs and interest. On appeal, Home Depot contends that the circuit court erred in denying its motion to dismiss and entering judgment in favor of Patel because Home Depot had already paid more than it was obligated to pay. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 As a result of two separate work-related accidents, Patel filed claims with the Commission for benefits. The cases were heard together before an arbitrator. In January 2004, the arbitrator entered an award in Patel's favor in both cases. Patel was awarded a total of $22,798.54 in temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, penalties, and attorney fees related to the two claims. The arbitrator also granted Home Depot a credit of $27,357.47 pursuant to section 8(j) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(j) (West 2008)), for TTD benefits previously paid to Patel.

¶ 4 The arbitrator noted that Home Depot paid Patel TTD benefits starting in November 2001. In November 2002, Home Depot terminated Patel's TTD benefits without written notice. After Patel's attorney demanded that TTD benefits be reinstated, Home Depot paid TTD benefits for several weeks before again terminating the benefits without written notice. This pattern repeated itself several times culminating with Home Depot's refusal to pay any TTD benefits after mid-February 2003. The arbitrator found that Patel was entitled to TTD benefits from February 14, 2003 through October 20, 2003.

¶ 5 Home Depot petitioned the Commission for review of the arbitrator's decision. In November 2005, the Commission confirmed the award of benefits and the credit. However, the Commission increased the amount of the credit to $32,357.47 and determined that it was not pursuant to section 8(j) of the Act. Patel then submitted a demand letter for payment of the benefits award to Home Depot. When Home Depot did not respond, Patel filed an application for entry of judgment and payment of compensation and penalties awarded under the Act pursuant to section 19(g) (820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2008)).

¶ 6 Home Depot filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619.1 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619.1 (West 2008)) on the grounds that it was entitled to offset the credit against the benefit award. The circuit court denied the motion and subsequently granted Patel's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to section 2-615(e) of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615(e) (West 2008)). The circuit court entered judgment against Home Depot for $22,798.54 and set a briefing schedule to address the issues of attorney fees, costs and additional interest. In September 2010, the circuit court entered judgment in favor of Patel for attorney fees of $47,000, costs of $5,315.31 and interest of $13,679.08. Home Depot timely filed this appeal.

¶ 7 ANALYSIS

¶ 8 The instant case involves the construction of section 19(g) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2008)). The construction of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de novo. Johnson v. Johnson, 386 Ill. App. 3d 522, 534 (2008). Moreover, a reviewing court reviews de novo a lower court's ruling on a motion to dismiss. Simmons v. Homatas, 236 Ill. 2d 459, 477 (2010).

¶ 9 Home Depot filed its motion to dismiss under section 2-619.1 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2- 619.1 (West 2008)). This section allows a defendant to raise alternative grounds for dismissal under section 2-615 (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2008)) and section 2-619 (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008)). Here, Home Depot argues that Patel's complaint should have been dismissed pursuant to section 2-615 or, in the alternative, the complaint should have been dismissed pursuant to section 2-619.

¶ 10 A motion to dismiss under section 2-615 attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Such a motion to dismiss does not raise affirmative factual defenses, but alleges defects appearing on the face of the pleadings. Kolegas v. Heftel Broadcasting Corp., 154 Ill. 2d 1, 8 (1992). In ruling on a section 2-615 motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pled facts in the complaint and all reasonable inferences which can be drawn therefrom. McGrath v. Fahey, 126 Ill. 2d 78, 90 (1988). In making this determination, the court interprets the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Id. A cause of action should not be dismissed on the pleadings unless it ...


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