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Estate of Burns v. Consolidation Coal Co.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

June 30, 2015

ESTATE OF MILDRED BURNS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
CONSOLIDATION COAL COMPANY, Respondent-Appellee

Page 237

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Franklin County. No. 13-MR-73. Honorable Melissa A. Morgan, Judge, presiding.

For Appellant: James R. Williams, Culley & Wissore, Harrisburg, IL.

For Appellee: Cheryl L. Intravaia, Feirich, Mager, Green, Ryan, Carbondale, IL.

JUSTICE STEWART delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cates and Justice Welch concurred in the judgment and opinion. Honorable Bruce D. Stewart, J., Honorable Judy L. Cates, P.J., and Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., Concur.

OPINION

Bruce D. Stewart, Justice.

Page 238

[¶1] On March 22, 2005, Mildred Burns, the widow of Thomas Burns, filed a claim for benefits under the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/1 et seq. (West 2004)) alleging that Thomas suffered disablement and died as a result of occupational diseases, which arose out of his employment with the respondent, Consolidation Coal Company. On January 18, 2006, Mildred died, leaving her daughter, Bonnie Dawe, and son, Kim Burns, as her heirs. On October 7, 2009, the arbitrator awarded the estate of Mildred Burns (estate) death benefits and burial expenses. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) affirmed and adopted the arbitrator's award. The respondent paid the estate $89,865.30. The estate contended that this was not the full amount due and owing under the Commission's award and filed a motion pursuant to section 19(g) of the Workers' Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2012)) to enforce the judgment in the circuit court. The respondent filed a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court granted. The estate filed a timely notice of appeal. We reverse.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] Thomas Burns worked as a coal miner for 38 years. His last exposure to coal dust was on November 30, 1985, while working for the respondent. Thomas died on June 7, 2002. His death certificate listed pneumonia and pneumoconiosis as the causes of death. The autopsy report listed the final anatomic diagnosis as coal workers' pneumoconiosis, right lower lobe pneumonic consolidation, bilateral marked pleural adhesions, and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

[¶4] Mildred filed federal and state claims for benefits for Thomas's death from pneumoconiosis. The law firm of Culley and Wissore represented her on both claims. On March 22, 2005, Mildred filed a claim for benefits under the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act. She died on January 18, 2006. The estate of Mildred Burns was substituted as a party in the claim for benefits. On September 18, 2009, the arbitrator found that Thomas was exposed to an occupational disease that arose out of and in the course of his employment. The respondent was ordered to pay $496.24 per week from June 7, 2002, the date of Thomas's death, through January 18, 2006, the date of Mildred's death. The respondent was also ordered to pay $4,200 for burial expenses. The respondent appealed.

[¶5] The respondent conceded liability in the federal claim and, in March 2010, paid

Page 239

$15,480 to the Department of Labor as reimbursement in benefits issued to Mildred by the Black Lung Trust Fund. The respondent also paid Mildred's heirs $7,906.30 in benefits for the period of June 2002 to December 2005. Therefore, the respondent paid a total of $23,386.30 for Mildred's claim for death benefits ...


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