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Illinois State Treasurer v. Illinois Workers' Comp. Comm'n

Supreme Court of Illinois

April 16, 2015


Page 289

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 290

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Mary C. Labrec, Assistant Attorney General, of Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Matthew J. Belcher and Brian J. Wiehe, of Belcher Law Office, of Chicago, for appellee.

JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



Page 291

[¶1] This appeal presents a single question of law: when acting in his capacity as custodian of the Injured Workers' Benefit Fund (Fund), is the Illinois State Treasurer (the Treasurer) required to file an appeal bond pursuant to section 19(f)(2) of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 2012)) in order to obtain judicial review of a decision by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission affirming an arbitrator's award of benefits to an injured worker? The appellate court answered this question in the affirmative and concluded that because the Treasurer had not filed the requisite appeal bond, the court lacked jurisdiction to consider the Treasurer's appeal. 2013 IL App. (1st) 120549WC, 377 Ill.Dec. 435, 2 N.E.3d 351. We granted the Treasurer's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315(a) (eff. Jan. 1, 2015). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


[¶3] Janina Zakarzecka worked as a home healthcare provider, caregiver, and companion to Joseph Meuse, an elderly man who was legally blind. Her job responsibilities included retrieving Meuse's mail and answering his front door. These duties required Zakarzecka to walk down a flight of stairs at Meuse's home.

[¶4] On May 10, 2007, a deliveryman brought a package to the house for Mr. Meuse. For sanitary reasons, Mr. Meuse required Zakarzecka to wear special shoes while working inside the house and to change into her street shoes when answering the door or going outside. When Zakarzecka heard the deliveryman on May 10, she hurriedly attempted to change her shoes at the top of the stairwell so she could get to the front door before the deliveryman left. In the process, she fell down the stairs, breaking both wrists and suffering partial loss of the use of both hands.

[¶5] Zakarzecka subsequently filed an application for adjustment of claim under the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2012)) to obtain benefits for her injuries. Zakarzecka's application named Meuse as the employer/ respondent. While her claim was pending, Meuse passed away, so Zakarzecka amended the claim to add as respondents Meuse's estate and the individual who owned and operated the employment agency that had placed Zakarzecka with Meuse. Because Meuse lacked workers' compensation insurance at the time of her injury, Zakarzecka also looked to the Fund for relief.

[¶6] The Fund is governed by section 4(d) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/4(d) (West 2012)) and serves as a source of payment for injured employees when the employer has failed to provide the coverage required by law and has failed to pay the benefits due to the injured employee. The money in the Fund comes from penalties and fines collected from employers, service or adjustment companies and insurance carriers pursuant to section 4(d) of the Act. The custodian of the Fund is the Illinois State Treasurer, who serves in that capacity ex officio. As required by section 4(d), Zakarzecka joined the Treasurer, in his role

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as the Fund's custodian, as an additional party respondent in the case. See 820 ILCS 305/4(d) (West 2012).

[¶7] The matter proceeded to a hearing before an arbitrator for the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. The arbitrator found that Zakarzecka's accident arose out of and in the course of her employment with Meuse and awarded her temporary total disability benefits, medical expenses, and compensation for the permanent and partial loss of both of her hands. Under the terms of the decision, an award was made to Zakarzecka and against the Fund " to the extent permitted and allowed under § 4(d) of the Act, in the event of the failure of Respondent-Employer to pay the benefits due and owing [her]."

[¶8] The Treasurer, as the Fund's custodian, appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Commission. The Commission unanimously affirmed and adopted the decision rendered by the arbitrator. Acting again as custodian of the Fund, the Treasurer then sought judicial review of the Commission's decision in the circuit court of Cook County pursuant to section 19(f) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f) (West 2012)).

[¶9] The circuit court confirmed the Commission's ruling. The Treasurer subsequently sought further review of the Commission's decision in the appellate court. Initially the appellate court reversed the Commission's award of benefits based on its determination that Zakarzecka had failed to present evidence supporting a reasonable inference that her injuries arose out of a risk associated with her employment. Following that ruling, however, Zakarzecka filed a timely petition for rehearing arguing, for the first time, that the courts lacked jurisdiction to consider the Treasurer's appeal.

[¶10] Zakarzecka's jurisdictional challenge was premised on two alternative grounds. First, she contended that her claim under the Fund was actually against the State of Illinois and the award in her favor was therefore not subject to any judicial review pursuant to section 19(f)(1) of the Act (820 ILCS 305/19(f)(1) (West 2012)). Alternatively, Zakarzecka argued that judicial review was barred by section 19(f)(2) of the Act because the Treasurer had not filed an appeal bond, a statutory prerequisite for invoking the circuit court's jurisdiction. See 820 ILCS 305/19(f)(2) (West 2012). Believing that both of these arguments ...

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