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Paluch v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

March 26, 2014

JAMES PALUCH, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant-Appellant

Modified upon denial of rehearing April 30, 2014.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 L 50237. The Honorable Daniel Gillespie, Judge, presiding.

Reversed and remanded.

SYLLABUS

Due to an ambiguity in a workers' compensation settlement agreement as to whether plaintiff's employer was required to pay $400,000 to plaintiff or $400,000 plus a Medicare set-aside annuity, the trial court's judgment that the employer had to pay the $400,000 plus the annuity was reversed and the cause was remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

FOR PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEE: Ivan M. Rittenberg, Steven R. Saks, Rittenberg, Buffen, Gulbrandsen, Robinson and Saks, Ltd., Chicago, Illinois.

FOR DEFENDANTS-APPELLANT: Lauren K. Meachum, Cathleen M. Hobson, Law Offices of Meachum, Starck & Boyle, Chicago, Illinois.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered judgment of the court, with modified opinion upon denial of petition for rehearing. Justices Pucinski and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HYMAN, PRESIDING JUSTICE

Page 507

[¶1] Sloppy, imprecise drafting can lead to legal wrangling. A single word in reciting the terms of a settlement, for example, can bring about intense litigation over interpretation. In drafting settlement agreements, lawyers should, quoting novelist Vladimir Nabokov's advice to writers, " have the precision of a poet," leaving out the poet's creativity, originality or artistic flourishes. Had the lawyers here been more studious and careful in choosing a single word (" plus" ), this case undoubtedly would not have been necessary.

[¶2] Under the terms of a workers' compensation settlement agreement between defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), and its employee, James Paluch, UPS was required to pay Paluch an amount that UPS sets at $400,000 and Paluch sets at $400,000 plus a Medicare set-aside (MSA) annuity. After UPS refused to read the agreement in the manner that Paluch contended it should be read, he filed this action, arguing that UPS had not fully satisfied the agreement. The trial court agreed with Paluch. UPS now appeals, arguing that $400,000 included the MSA.

Page 508

[¶3] We find the agreement ambiguous as to the total amount UPS owed to Paluch and reverse the trial court and remand for an evidentiary hearing because the settlement agreement is ambiguous and open to more than one interpretation. After this court issued its opinion on March 26, 2014, Paluch filed a petition ...


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