Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 CH 20233
Honorable Mary L. Mikva, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE COBBS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice Lavin
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff Lauretta Grady appeals from the dismissal with
prejudice of her complaint seeking judicial review of an
administrative decision nominally rendered by the Illinois
Department of Human Services (DHS) regarding her eligibility
for a Medicaid program. In her complaint, plaintiff named the
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (DHFS)
and its director, Julie Hamos, as defendants but not DHS or
that agency's head. On appeal, plaintiff contends that
the trial court erred in dismissing her complaint for failure
to name required parties, arguing that DHFS has the statutory
authority to determine questions of Medicaid eligibility and
consequently was the proper defendant. Alternatively, she
contends that if she failed to name the proper parties she
was entitled to amend her complaint to correct the error,
pursuant to subsection 3-107(a) of the Administrative Review
Law (735 ILCS 5/3-107(a) (West 2014)). For the reasons that
follow, we find plaintiff failed to name the proper defendant
in her complaint but was entitled to amend her complaint. We
reverse and remand.
3 Plaintiff participates in the Home Services Plan, a program
intended to prevent unnecessary institutionalization of
individuals, pursuant to the Traumatic Brain Injury Medicaid
Waiver Program. As part of the plan, participants take part
in regular reassessments to determine their continued
eligibility and needs. Following a reassessment in June 2014,
plaintiff was assigned a plan that granted her 155 hours of
medical services per month.
4 Subsequently, plaintiff filed an administrative appeal of
the plan, seeking additional hours for an assistant to aid
with certain therapies prescribed by her doctor. An
administrative hearing was held before an officer of DHS, and
the officer recommended a new service plan with marginally
increased hours. The caption atop the officer's written
decision stated "STATE OF ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN
SERVICES, " and the decision's first paragraph
indicated that the officer was a hearing officer for
"the Department of Human Services *** Bureau of
Hearings." The officer later noted that "the
Department of Human Services has jurisdiction" over the
administrative appeal. The decision's final page was
signed by Michelle R.B. Saddler, the secretary of DHS at the
time, and indicated that Saddler was adopting the findings
and recommendations of the hearing officer. The decision was
sent to plaintiff with a cover letter, signed by Saddler and
indicating that the "Illinois Department of Human
Services reviewed" her appeal.
5 Alleging that the increased hours were still insufficient,
plaintiff appealed the administrative decision in a complaint
filed in the Cook County circuit court on December 18, 2014.
The complaint did not name DHS or Saddler as defendants;
instead, it named DHFS and its then-director, Hamos.
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint without leave to
amend, arguing that DHS was a necessary party because it had
issued the decision to be reviewed. Plaintiff responded that
DHFS was the agency responsible under the law for rendering
the decision to be reviewed and thus was the correct party.
She also argued alternatively that the court was required to
grant her 35 days to serve the correct defendant and that any
mistake should be excused as a "good faith" error.
6 Before the trial court made its ruling on the motion to
dismiss, the Appellate Court, Fourth District, rendered its
decision in Mannheim School District No. 83 v.
Teachers' Retirement System, 2015 IL App (4th)
140531, holding that subsection 3-107(a) of the
Administrative Review Law does not require leave to amend a
complaint "to include the agency that rendered the final
decision as a defendant when an individual member of that
agency was not named." Id. ¶ 28.
Defendants were granted leave to cite Mannheim as
additional authority, and plaintiff responded that the case
was wrongly decided. In a written order, the trial court
granted the State's motion to dismiss, stating that
plaintiff's failure to name DHS was fatal to her claim.
The court also denied plaintiff leave to amend, explaining
that although it agreed that Mannheim was wrongly
decided, it was bound by the Fourth District's holding.
8 Plaintiff first contends that defendants were properly
named in her suit because the Administrative Review Law (735
ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2014)) requires the
agency "having power under the law to make
administrative decisions" to be named as defendant.
Citing Gillmore v. Illinois Department of Human
Services, 218 Ill.2d 302 (2006), she argues that
"power under the law" refers solely to power under
the relevant statute and that DHFS has the statutory
authority to determine Medicaid eligibility. Defendants
respond that the Administrative Review Law requires that the
agency that actually issued a ruling be named as defendant.
They argue that it is clear from the record that DHS issued
the determination in question and thus DHS should have been
named as defendant.
9 Where the circuit court has granted a motion to dismiss
filed pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil
Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2014)), as occurred in this
case, our review is de novo. Rodriguez v.
Sheriff's Merit Comm'n, 218 Ill.2d 342, 349
(2006). Plaintiff raises matters of statutory interpretation,
which are similarly reviewed de novo. Skaperdas
v. Country Casualty Insurance Co., 2015 IL 117021,
10 When construing a statute, our primary objective is to
ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent
through giving the statutory language its plain and ordinary
meaning. People v. Lloyd, 2013 IL 113510, ¶ 25.
If the language is clear and unambiguous, a court may not
deviate from that language by inferring exceptions or
conditions that the General Assembly did not set forth.
Wilkins v. Williams, 2013 IL 114310, ¶ 22.
However, statutory interpretation "cannot always be
reduced to 'the mechanical application of the dictionary
definitions of the individual words and phrases
involved.' " People v. Wood, 379 Ill.App.3d
705, 708-09 (2008) (quoting Whelan v. County
Officers' Electoral Board, 256 Ill.App.3d 555, 558
(1994)). A court should not read language in an excessively
literal fashion such that it produces an absurd construction.
See id. at 709.
11 The Administrative Review Law governs all proceedings in
which a party seeks judicial review of an administrative
eligibility decision under article V of the Illinois Public
Aid Code (305 ILCS 5/5-1 (West 2014)). Gilmore, 218
Ill.2d at 314; see also 305 ILCS 5/11-8.7 (West 2014).
Subsection 3-107(a) of the Administrative Review Law requires
that "in any action to review any final decision of an
administrative agency, the administrative agency and all
persons, other than the plaintiff, who were ...