Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division
Appeal fro the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. No. 12 L 51141 & 12 L 51142 (consol.). Honorable Eileen O'Neil Burke, Judge Presiding.
Where claimant had three consolidated workers' compensation claims pending against his employer, the trial court's decision confirming the Workers' Compensation Commission's approval of lump-sum settlement contracts resolving two of the claims was affirmed by the appellate court, notwithstanding plaintiff employer's contentions that only one condition of ill-being existed as a result of all three injuries, that the three cases should remain consolidated, and that the arbitrator's rejection of the settlement contracts was a way of circumventing his ruling denying severance of the claims; furthermore, the employer's failure to meet its burden as appellant to produce a sufficiently complete record to support its claims of error led the appellate court to presume that the Commission's order conformed with the law and had a sufficient factual basis.
FOR APPELLANT(s): Lindsey Beukema, Slavin & Slavin, Chicago, IL.
FOR APPELLEE(s): Larry J. Coven, Esq., Coven Law Group, Chicago, IL.
JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hudson, Harris, and Stewart concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] The claimant, Jorge Merlos, appeals from the circuit court judgment confirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) which approved two lump-sum settlement contracts resolving his claims filed under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2006)) for injuries he sustained while in the employ of The Levy Company (Levy). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the circuit court judgment
[¶2] The following facts are discernible from the record presented on appeal. After filing the two claims arising from his shoulder injuries, the claimant returned to work on May 31, 2007, subject to permanent restrictions. He apparently was engaged in full and unrestricted duty on June 16, 2008, when he suffered the back and neck injury that was the subject of claim number 08 WC 38667. In his motion to sever that claim from the earlier claims, the claimant argued that the prior claims involved injuries that were separate and distinct from those which formed the basis for claim number 08 WC 38667. He contended that, while he is continuing to undergo vocational rehabilitation for his neck and back and is receiving ongoing benefits from those injuries, he has completed treatment for the shoulder injuries, has returned to full duty, and is seeking to settle the shoulder claims without affecting his rights in claim number 08 WC 38667. According to the claimant, the shoulder claims involved many disputed issues with two different insurance carriers which likely would lead to years of reviews and appeals if not resolved. Accordingly, because those claims are " wholly unrelated" to the back and neck claims, the claimant requested that they be severed to enable settlement.
[¶3] In response to the motion to sever, Levy contended that, at the time the claimant sustained his back injury in 2008, he was performing full duty while subject to permanent work restrictions that Levy was never informed were in place. In light of this fact, Levy argued, there exists evidence that only one condition of ill-being exists as a result of all three injuries, and, it is appropriate for the three cases to remain consolidated to enable the arbitrator either to delineate and apportion the nature and extent of permanency attributable to each accident, or to find that only one condition of ill-being exists.
[¶4] The parties then presented the arbitrator with the proposed settlement contracts. Under the contract for claim number 06 WC 00534, the parties agreed, on a " completely disputed basis," that Levy, through its insurance company, would pay the claimant a lump sum settlement of $118,500, representing approximately 40% of a person as a whole " in a full, final and complete settlement for any and all of [claimant's] claims under the [Act] for injuries allegedly sustained on or about September 23, 2005," for repetitive trauma to the claimant's shoulders. In exchange, the claimant agreed to release Levy and its insurer from any and all claims ...