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Workers' Compensation Commission Division v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission et al.

December 10, 2012

WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION DIVISION INGRASSIA INTERIOR ELEMENTS,
APPELLEE,
v.
ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION ET AL. (ROGER SEYMOUR, APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 10-MR-644 Honorable J. Edward Prochaska, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hudson

JUSTICE HUDSON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hoffman, Turner, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Holdridge specially concurred, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 I. INTRODUCTION

¶ 2 Claimant, Roger Seymour, filed with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) a petition for review of an arbitrator's decision denying his claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2006)). The Commission denied a motion by respondent, Ingrassia Interior Elements, to strike the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to claimant's failure to timely file a transcript of the proceedings before the arbitrator. Respondent sought review of the Commission's denial, in the circuit court of Winnebago County. The trial court concluded that the Commission lacked subject matter jurisdiction and held that the decision of the arbitrator was final. This appeal followed, and, for the reasons that follow, we reverse the trial court, reinstate the Commission's decision, and remand.

¶ 3 II. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 During a hearing before the arbitrator on April 11, 2008, claimant and respondent both signed a "request for hearing" form. Pertinent here, the form contained the following stipulation:

"Both parties agree that if either party files a Petition for Review of Arbitration Decision and orders a transcript of the hearings, and if the Commission's court reporter does not furnish the transcript within the time limit set by law, the other party will not claim the Commission lacks jurisdiction to review the arbitration decision because the transcript was not filed timely." (Emphasis in original.)

An evidentiary hearing commenced on June 13, 2008. At the beginning of this hearing, respondent informed the arbitrator that it "would like to put a line through [the standard stenographic stipulation] and *** ask[ed that] the Commission follow the mandates under section 19(b) of the Act." See 820 ILCS 305/19 (West 2006) ("Unless a petition for review is filed by either party within 30 days after the receipt by such party of the copy of the decision and notification of time when filed, and unless such party petitioning for a review shall within 35 days after the receipt by him of the copy of the decision, file with the Commission either an agreed statement of the facts appearing upon the hearing before the Arbitrator, or if such party shall so elect a correct transcript of evidence of the proceedings at such hearings, then the decision shall become the decision of the Commission and in the absence of fraud shall be conclusive."). The form was filed only thereafter.

¶ 5 The arbitrator's decision was adverse to claimant, so on July 25, 2008, he filed a timely petition to review the decision. Claimant promptly ordered a transcript of the proceeding and made telephone calls to the Commission's court reporter in an effort to file the transcript in a timely manner (claimant moved for and received an extension of time to file the transcript). The court reporter did not provide claimant with a transcript within the applicable time limit; therefore, a transcript was not filed with the Commission within the time set in section 19(b).

¶ 6 Respondent then moved to strike claimant's petition for review, arguing that the fact that a transcript was not timely filed left the Commission without subject matter jurisdiction. The Commission disagreed with respondent. It found that respondent was bound by the stenographic stipulation to which it had agreed on April 11, 2008, notwithstanding its attempted repudiation of the stipulation on the day the evidentiary hearing began. Relying on Walker v. Industrial Comm'n, 345 Ill. App. 3d 1084, 1088 (2004), the Commission construed section 7030.40 of title 50 of the Illinois Administrative Code (Code) as making the stipulation binding at the time the parties signed it. 50 Ill. Adm. Code 7030.40 (1996). It also noted that claimant had been diligent in attempting to file the transcript.

¶ 7 Respondent sought judicial review, and the trial court reversed. It disagreed with the Commission's construction of section 7030.40 and instead held that section 7030.40 requires that a "request for hearing" form be filed with the arbitrator before it is binding on the parties. Thus, the trial court reasoned, "[t]he earlier signed stenographic stipulation was a nullity because it was not filed with the Arbitrator." It also rejected the Commission's reliance on claimant's due diligence, noting that the Act provides for another remedy-specifically trial de novo before the Commission (820 ILCS 305/19(e) (West 2006))-when a transcript is not timely filed due to the fault of someone other than the party seeking review. The trial court held that the decision of the arbitrator was final. This appeal followed.

¶ 8 III. ANALYSIS

¶ 9 The sole issue before this court is whether the fact that a transcript was not filed within the time period specified in section 19(b) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(b) (West 2008)) deprives the Commission of jurisdiction to review the decision of the arbitrator. Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that it does not. Generally, we apply the de novo standard when we review a jurisdictional issue. Smalley Steel Ring Co. v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Comm'n, 386 Ill. App. 3d 993, 995 (2008). However, in this case, the meaning of an administrative regulation is also at issue. We owe substantial deference to an agency's construction of its own regulations. People ex rel. Madigan v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 2011 IL App (1st) 101776, ¶ 6; cf. King v. Industrial Comm'n, 189 Ill. 2d 167, 171 (2000) ("Moreover, courts afford considerable deference to the interpretation placed on a statute by the agency charged with its administration."). This is true regarding even questions of jurisdiction. See Illinois Consolidated Telephone Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 95 Ill. ...


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