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Loyola University of Chicago v. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division

May 1, 2015

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION and ANNE MIKESH, Defendants-Appellants

Page 906

Appeal from the Circuit of Cook County. No. 12-L-51120. Honorable Eileen O'Neil Burke, Judge, Presiding.

FOR APPELLANT(s): Mark A. DePaolo, Megan C. Kivisto, Corti, Aleksy and Castaneda, Chicago, IL.

FOR APPELLEE(s): Mark A. Braun, Braun Lorenz & Bergin, P.C., Chicago, IL.

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

Page 907

HUDSON, JUSTICE.

[¶1] Claimant, Anne Mikesh, appeals from the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County finding that the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) did not have jurisdiction to construe the settlement contract entered into by her and respondent, Loyola University of Chicago. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court in part, reverse in part, and reinstate the decision of the Commission as modified.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] The facts underlying this appeal are not in dispute. Claimant worked for respondent as a secretary in the cardiology department of Loyola University Medical Center. Claimant filed two applications for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2002)) alleging injuries to her back and left lower extremity while moving patient records on December 1, 2003, and February 16, 2005. During the pendency of the case, respondent did not pay any temporary total disability benefits and claimant applied for both long-term disability benefits and social security disability benefits. In conjunction with her application for long-term disability benefits, claimant signed a " Reimbursement Agreement." The Reimbursement Agreement provided that under the terms of the policy governing long-term disability, claimant's benefits may be reduced by

Page 908

any other benefits that she receives, such as social security disability. The Reimbursement Agreement further provided:

" If I later receive Other Benefits for myself or my dependents, if applicable, I agree to reimburse the full amount of any overpayment within 30 days after receiving the award. In addition, I understand that the Insurance Company, at is [ sic ] option, will retain any future benefits payable, including Minimum Monthly Benefits, and use it to reduce the overpayment not refunded within 30 days. The Insurance Company reserves the right to obtain lump payment to recover an overpayment even if future benefits are being withheld."

In a letter dated September 16, 2005, CIGNA Group Insurance (CIGNA) notified claimant that her request for long-term disability benefits had been approved. The letter also reiterated that the award would be reduced by any other benefits claimant receives.

[¶4] Meanwhile, claimant's workers' compensation case proceeded to arbitration. On February 21, 2006, the arbitrator determined that claimant's condition of ill-being was causally related to the February 16, 2005, work injury. The arbitrator awarded claimant temporary total disability benefits (see 820 ILCS 305/8(b) (West 2002)) and reasonable and necessary medical expenses (see 820 ILCS 305/8(a) (West 2002)). Both parties sought review before the Commission. On December 24, 2007, the Commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator and remanded the matter for further proceedings pursuant to Thomas v. Industrial Comm'n, 78 Ill.2d 327, 399 N.E.2d 1322, 35 Ill.Dec. 794 (1980). Thereafter, respondent sought judicial review in the circuit court of Cook County.

[¶5] In August 2008, while claimant's case was pending in the circuit court, claimant was notified that she had been approved for social security disability benefits. During this time, the parties also engaged in settlement negotiations. On January 20, 2009, the Commission approved the parties' settlement contract lump-sum petition and order (settlement contract). The terms of the settlement contract are set forth in an exhibit attached thereto. Those terms provide in relevant part:

" Respondent offers and [claimant] accepts $318,651.44 in a lump sum and other good and valuable consideration herein recited in a full, final, and complete settlement of all claims of any nature or kind, whatsoever, known or unknown, resulting or to result from the described accidental injuries of December 1, 2003 and February 16, 2005, and any other accident, incident, aggravation, or exposure during the period of [claimant's] employment by the Respondent, to and including the date of this contract.
The additional consideration for the settlement and the total and complete release of the employer from any and all possible liability is the Respondent's obligation to hold [claimant] harmless from any claim for reimbursement by any entity, which provided long term or short term disability payments, made as a result of the previously described accidental injuries at anytime from the date of the claimed accidents to the date of the approval of this contract.
* * *
[Claimant] waives any and all rights under the *** Act, including, but not limited to Sections 8(a) and 19(h), except as to enforcement of the terms ...

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