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Tony L. Curtis v. Illinois Workers' Compensation

March 11, 2013

TONY L. CURTIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION AND VILLAGE OF LANSING,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11-L-50114 Honorable Daniel T. Gillespie, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hudson

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

Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman, Harris, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Claimant, Tony L. Curtis, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County confirming a decision of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission). The Commission denied claimant's request under section 8(a) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 2010)) for additional temporary total disability (TTD) benefits related to the "destabilization" of his work-related injury. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 The facts underlying this appeal are undisputed. Claimant is employed by respondent, the Village of Lansing, as a police officer/paramedic. On February 4, 2002, claimant filed an application for adjustment of claim, alleging that he sustained an accidental injury to his right hand on September 1, 2000, when he tripped and fell while chasing a suspect. The matter proceeded to arbitration pursuant to section 19(b) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(b) (West 2000)). The arbitrator concluded that claimant sustained a compensable accident. As such, he awarded claimant TTD benefits of $634.13 per week for a period of 55 weeks (see 820 ILCS 305/8(b) (West 2000)) and medical expenses in the amount of $14,383.92 (see 820 ILCS 305/18(a) (West 2000)), subject to any credit pursuant to section 8(j) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(j) (West 2000)). The Commission affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's decision and remanded the case to the arbitrator for a determination of a further amount of TTD compensation or compensation for permanent disability, if any, pursuant to Thomas v. Industrial Comm'n, 78 Ill. 2d 327 (1980). No appeals were taken from the decision of the Commission.

¶ 4 Upon remand, an arbitration hearing was held. In a decision dated January 25, 2005, the arbitrator noted that respondent agreed that there were outstanding medical expenses totaling $8,349.04. As such, he ordered respondent to pay this amount pursuant to section 8(a) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 2000)), subject to any credit due under section 8(j). In addition, the arbitrator awarded claimant $516.15 per week for 76 weeks as permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, representing 40% loss of use of the right hand (see 820 ILCS 305/8(e)(9) (West 2000)). Neither party filed for review before the Commission.

¶ 5 On January 21, 2010, claimant filed a "Petition for Hearing Pursuant to Section 8(a)." In his petition, claimant alleged that as a result of the prior proceedings before the Commission, he was entitled to "open medical rights." Claimant asserted that pursuant to these rights, he underwent a causally-connected surgery on October 5, 2009, after which he was authorized to remain off work by his treating physician. Claimant acknowledged that respondent paid for the cost of this medical treatment. However, he complained that respondent refused to pay TTD benefits for the period of temporary disability that resulted from the October 2009 surgery. In conjunction with his section 8(a) petition, claimant filed a petition for the assessment of penalties pursuant to sections 19(k) and 19(l) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(k), 19(l) (West 2010)) and attorney fees pursuant to section 16 of the Act (820 ILCS 305/16 (West 2010)) based on respondent's failure to pay TTD benefits.

¶ 6 A hearing on claimant's petitions was held before Commissioner Sherman on February 11, 2010. At the hearing, claimant urged the Commission to award him TTD benefits for the period from October 5, 2009, through February 8, 2010, due to lost time from work resulting from the October 5, 2009, surgery. Respondent denied liability for additional TTD, asserting that any request for such benefits must be sought under section 19(h) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(h) (West 2010)). Respondent contended, however, that the 30-month statutory time limit in which to seek benefits under section 19(h) had long ago expired. Respondent acknowledged that medical rights were left open pursuant to section 8(a) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 2010)), but maintained that there is no right to TTD under that provision.

¶ 7 The Commission denied claimant's petition for additional TTD benefits as well as his request for penalties and attorney fees, explaining, in pertinent part, as follows:

"All the cases cited by [claimant's] attorney *** involve §19(h) petitions. Here, no §19(h) petition was filed, presumably because the 30 month period from the last Decision dated January 25, 2005 had expired. In essence, [claimant] is requesting TTD and penalties and attorneys' fees on claimed unpaid TTD under §8(a) of the Act. Section 8(a) deals with medical, not TTD. Maintenance under a vocational rehabilitation situation is provided under §8(a), but that is not the same as TTD, although the amount of the benefit rate for TTD and maintenance is the same. There is no provision in §8(a) that provides [for] the relief sought by [claimant]."

On judicial review, the circuit court of Cook County confirmed the decision of the Commission. Thereafter, ...


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