Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Workers' Compensation Commission Division
BRITTANY M. THEIS, Appellant,
THE ILLINOIS WORKERS' COMPENSATION COMMISSION et al. (Steak 'n Shake Operations, Inc., Appellees).
from Circuit Court of Cook County No. 15L50631Honorable
Alexander P. White, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justices Hoffman,
Hudson, and Moore concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 In May 2014, claimant, Brittany Theis, was awarded benefits
under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820
ILCS 305/1 to 30 (West 2012)), for an injury to her right arm
resulting from a March 3, 2013, fall at work. Neither she nor
the employer, Steak 'n Shake Operations, Inc., filed a
petition for review.
2 In October 2014, claimant filed a petition for penalties
and fees pursuant to sections 19(l), 19(k), and 16
of the Act. Following a December 2014 hearing, the Illinois
Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) awarded
claimant section 19(l) penalties in the amount of
$4, 920, but it denied claimant's request for section
19(k) penalties and section 16 fees. On judicial review, the
circuit court reversed the Commission's award of section
19(l) penalties, but it otherwise confirmed the
Commission's decision. Claimant appeals, asserting the
Commission's award of section 19(l) penalties
was appropriate. We affirm.
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 In April 2013, claimant filed an application for adjustment
of claim pursuant to the Act for an injury to her right arm
resulting from a March 3, 2013, fall at work. An arbitration
hearing was conducted on April 7, 2014. On May 23, 2014, the
arbitrator issued his decision, finding that claimant
suffered a work accident and awarding her benefits under the
Act. Specifically, he awarded claimant temporary total
disability (TTD) benefits in the amount of $460 (which had
already been paid by the employer); permanent partial
disability (PPD) benefits in the amount of $19, 481 (88.55
weeks at a rate of $220 or 35% permanent loss of use of her
right arm); and "all medical expenses contained in
[claimant's] Exhibits 1-9." Neither party filed a
petition for review of the arbitrator's decision.
5 On October 3, 2014, claimant filed a petition for penalties
and fees pursuant to sections 19(l), 19(k), and 16
of the Act. She asserted that more than 130 days had passed
since the arbitration decision was entered and that the
employer had yet to pay either award.
6 On October 8, 2014, the employer issued claimant a check in
the amount of $19, 481 for payment of the PPD award.
7 The record shows an October 16, 2014, email from the
employer's counsel to claimant's counsel which
states, "I've never received any of your exhibits
from trial and I must note I've asked several times since
we tried the case. You allowed me to look through your trial
exhibits the day of trial however I was never provided a
copy." Counsel for the employer further noted its
records showed that it had already "paid a significant
amount of [claimant's] medical bills" but stated,
"[w]ithout your exhibits, we're unable to calculate
the correct amount which was awarded at trial. Please send
your exhibits to our office as soon as you can so we can
calculate what is owed and what was paid and we can cut a
check." On December 4, 2014, the employer issued a check
to claimant in the amount of $55, 997.04 for her medical
8 On December 9, 2014, a hearing on claimant's petition
was conducted before the Commission. Regarding the award for
medical expenses, claimant asserted that her medical bills
"were submitted at trial in evidence and they were
awarded pursuant to the arbitrator's award at that time
on May 23, 2014." Claimant further argued that despite
the employer's "notice of those outstanding bills
prior to proceeding to the hearing, " it "waited
over 196 days to pay the award of medical expenses." In
contrast, the employer argued it did not receive copies of
claimant's medical bills until October 27, 2014, after
having requested them from claimant's attorney. According
to the employer, it was not relevant if copies of the medical
bills were admitted at trial because the Act requires the
medical bills to be tendered to the employer for payment. The
employer further stated that upon receiving the medical bills
from claimant, "a fee schedule calculation [was] made
and the bills compared to other bills and other records we
had previously received to make sure that there was no
balanced [sic] billing or double billing." Once
those tasks were completed, the employer issued claimant a
check on December 5, 2014.
9 Regarding the payment of the PPD award, the employer
admitted the payment was late. However, it maintained that no
request for payment had been made by claimant prior to the
filing of her petition for penalties and fees, a copy of
which the employer received on October 6, 2014. According to
the employer, "that was the first time they were made
aware that there had been the nonpayment of the award."
The record shows the employer issued claimant a check in the
amount of the PPD award on October 8, 2014.
10 On August 3, 2015, the Commission entered its decision.
First, it denied claimant's request for section 19(k)
penalties and section 16 fees, finding she failed to prove
the employer acted in an unreasonable or vexatious manner.
Specifically, the Commission noted claimant had not (1)
tendered the medical bills at issue to the employer until
October 17, 2014, or (2) requested payment of her PPD award
prior to filing her petition for penalties and fees.
Essentially, it found that claimant's actions-or failure
to act-caused the delay in the payment of the awards.
Nonetheless, the Commission awarded claimant section
19(l) penalties in the amount of $4, 920 ($30 per
day from June 23, 2014, through December 3, 2014) due to the
employer's failure to "timely pay the award or
amounts otherwise due for medical bills and permanency upon
the award becoming final and non-appealable."
11 The employer appealed the Commission's award of
section 19(l) penalties. On April 12, 2016, the
circuit court of Cook County reversed the Commission's
award of section 19(l) penalties, finding that the
employer's delay in paying the awards was justified. It