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The Illinois Workers Compensation Blog

Thursday, March 16, 2017

DO YOUR EMPLOYEES SIT, BEND AND REACH? When does doing so constitute a compensable work-related accident?

In the past few months, the Illinois Appellate Court has rendered two different decisions addressing whether simple acts of sitting, bending over. The Court reached two different results. The earlier decision in Noonan v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, 2016 IL App (1st) 152300WC (Oct. 21, 2016) contained  a lengthy analysis of types of risk and increased risks as well as discussion of several prior cases.
Read more . . .

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Mailbox Rule Supreme Court

In an eagerly awaited decision, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Division panel of the state appellate court, applying the “mailbox rule” to the filing for judicial review of a Workers’ Compensation Commission decision and finding that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the Appellate Court for consideration of the other issues raised by the parties.

The case began when an employee claimed, but was denied workers’ compensation benefits by the Commission.  He sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision in the circuit court of De Kalb County, which transferred venue to the Circuit Court of McHenry County. The latter court ruled on the merits, confirming the denial of benefits. The employee next sought review by the Appellate Court.  The Appellate Court dismissed the appeal, finding that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the employee’s written documents required for judicial review in the Circuit Court had not been presented or actually file-stamped by the Court within the 20-day time period set forth to commence such action in section 19(f)(1) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

However, the Supreme Court disagreed with such strict interpretation of the judicial review procedures.  Before the Supreme Court, the employee invoked the so-called “mailbox rule” and argued that he computed the 20-day period using the date the required documents were mailed to the Circuit Court, rather than the date on which the documents were received and file-stamped by the Court clerk.

The question before the Supreme Court was whether the “mailbox rule” applies to the commencement in Circuit Court of an action for judicial review of a Commission decision, which is an exercise of special statutory jurisdiction. The “mailbox rule” emanates from the Statute on Statute (5 ILCS 70/1.25) which provides that the date of mailing for all documents to be filed with the state (including courts) is deemed their date of filing (where such documents are not presented in person for filing).  In the past, Illinois courts have applied the “mailbox rule” when computing the due date for notices of appeal from the Circuit to the Appellate Court and to the filing of petitions for review of arbitrator’s decisions to the full Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The Supreme Court first stated that the applicable section of the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide specific direction or clarification. Noting that the “mailbox rule” does not apply to the commencement of a new civil action in the Circuit Court where there are issues of notice of a new action to the non-filing party and the statute of limitations, the Court then found those factors are not present in this case.

More importantly, said the legislature is obviously aware that, for decades, courts have construed various statutes that contain no explicit “mailbox rule” as having one. The Court reasoned that the legislature is quite possibly comfortable with the widespread adoption of the “mailbox rule” by the courts and sees no need to specifically provide a “mailbox rule” in every statute.  The Court said that if the legislature disagrees in a particular situation, it needs to so provide in the given statute.

The Supreme Court therefore held that absent a clear directive from the legislature to the contrary, allowing the “mailbox rule” to apply when commencing an action for judicial review by the Circuit Court of a Commission decision is the result most consistent with Illinois law.  This holding undoes an absurd and unjust result, simplifies procedure and furthers substance over form.

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