10-16-2017; Will The 2017 WC Deforms Return from the Dead to Kill New and Existing IL Businesses?; In IL WC, It Is Not Just Getting the Emails, It is Opening Them and more

Synopsis: Illinois General Assembly Returns in Nine Days for their Fall Veto Session—Will Their 2017 Workers’ Comp “Deforms” Return from the Dead to Kill New and Existing IL Business/Gov’t?


Editor’s comment: Earlier this year, Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a number of bills were certain to make Illinois already troubled financial canoe even tipsier. Many of the bills were certain to increase the cost of doing business in our state. If they were all to become law, we are certain these bills would drive business from the state and pose a terrible blow to Illinois being able to compete for high-paying jobs with good benefits. I salute our plucky Governor's willingness to join with business groups like the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and others while getting pressure to sign these bills from organized labor and other special interest groups who seem bent on destroying Illinois' jobs climate.


The General Assembly returns to Springfield for the veto session the week of October 23rd and the week of November 6th. The veto session likely will demonstrate the strength of the Governor's relationships with Republican lawmakers, especially Illinois House Republicans. With the friction created between the Governor over the budget deadlock and tax increase override vote, Governor Rauner will lobby and then rely on House Republicans to sustain his important vetoes. To override the vetoes, Democrats will need 71 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate. The current political makeup of the Illinois House is 67 Democrats and 51 Republicans. The Senate has 37 Democrats to 22 Republicans.


The two Work Comp Bills where a legislative override of the Governor’s veto might happen are:


·         HB 2525, sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea)/Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago). This nutty bill is being promoted by the House & Senate Democrats as workers' compensation “reform.”


o   I consider it a “fake” bill that was created to counter the less-than-brilliant WC proposals of Governor Rauner in his “Turnaround Agenda.”

o   Now that the “Turnaround Agenda” basically disappeared, we hope this silly bill will similarly disappear but you never know.

o   The bills codifies very poor WC case law for "causation" and "traveling employee."

o   This bill, if the Gov’s veto is overridden, may expand workers’ comp coverage drastically, as it would lock IL employers into a poorly thought-out court-expanded liability that was later rejected by the IL Supreme Court.

o   In addition, it prevents employers from being able to achieve a change in case law from future courts. Some WC benefit relief is included but is far outweighed by increased regulation and litigation.


·         HB2622,  sponsored by Rep. Laura Fine (D-Glenview/Biss). This legislation uses employer and insurer tax dollars to capitalize the creation of a state-established, mutual Workers’ Comp insurance company to compete with the over 300 insurers that already provide hotly competitive workers' compensation coverage.


o   The $10 million of startup money are tax dollars that currently go to pay for the operations of the IL Workers' Compensation Commission.

o   No one knows how the IWCC would operate with an immediate and gaping $10M hole in their $30M budget.

o   The legislation provides the start-up funds are supposed to be a "loan" to be paid back by the new State-owned carrier with interest to the IWCC!

o   Given the hilarious track record of Illinois government, it is difficult to believe the loan would be paid by this start-up company.

o   Further, given the laughingly poor management proclivities of Illinois gov’t leadership, it is impossible to imagine this tiny insurance carrier could possibly compete with the international giants of the insurance industry.

o   If the new insurance company floundered, one has to wonder if they would again tap into the IWCC funding, further jeopardizing important administrative functions in adjudicating benefits for injured workers.

o   The whole silly concept is based on an ITLA-driven theory that all the major U.S. insurance carriers somehow “hide” box-car profits but only in this single state.

If the vetoes of either IL WC bill are overridden, rest assured the IL WC system is going to be steeped in confusion and chaos for some time to come. WC premiums/benefits and costs may literally skyrocket. The administration of our system of WC justice may be wildly changed.


Please keep your fingers crossed that our General Assembly doesn’t make a mess of things while Amazon is considering moving its second headquarters here.


Watch this space for news on this cliffhanger. We appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please post them on our award-winning blog.


Synopsis: In IL WC, It Is Not Just Getting the Emails That May Be Important, It Is Opening Them!!


Editor’s comment: We saw a recent IWCC ruling of some importance on the issue of managing emails from this administrative body. The facts are fairly clear. On party filed a Petition for Review of the Arbitrator’s decision.


Both parties agreed to waive receipt of the Arbitrator’s decision by certified mail and consented to receive the ruling via email. Both parties agreed their email addresses were accurate on the Request for Hearing form or “stip sheet.” The Arbitrator’s decision was filed on Feb. 2, 2016 and forwarded to both sides via email on Feb. 3, 2016. The appealing party did not file the requisite Petition for Review until March 31, 2016, well after the 30-day period required under Section 19(b) of the IL WC Act. On the Petition for Review the appealing party indicated the decision was filed on Feb. 2, 2016 but received on March 23, 2016.


Pursuant to IWCC procedure, decisions are emailed with a delivery receipt and read receipt requested. The delivery receipt is generated automatically when the email is successfully transmitted to the recipient’s email address. The read receipt is generated when the email is opened. The Commission notes it is possible for the read receipt to be manually prevented by the receiving party. In this claim, the non-appealing party sent the read receipt on the day the email was sent or Feb. 3, 2016. The appealing party’s email system didn’t send the read receipt until March 24, 2016.


The appealing party claimed the Arbitrator’s decision was emailed to an attorney who was no longer at the firm and the departing attorney’s email wasn’t monitored by anyone at the law office. Without citing anything in support, the appealing party asserted their supposed understanding that an emailed decision was not considered “received” until receipt occurs by opening the email.


The IWCC’s ruling indicates what happened with this appeal would be synonymous with someone getting a certified letter via USPS and then choosing not to open it for a month or more. The IWCC’s unanimous ruling indicated the appealing party’s law firm had an affirmative duty to monitor and open emails sent to all attorneys at the firm. If there was a change, the parties also had an affirmative duty to advise the Arbitrator of the change in email address to insure decisions are properly relayed to the parties of record.


The Commission ruling said: “To find otherwise would allow too much opportunity for the 30-day deadline to be subverted by simply waiting indefinitely to read any emails from the Commission.” The Petition for Review was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.


I strongly salute this ruling. I wanted to report it to insure parties on all sides of any IWCC claim are aware of it. The matter may be further appealed and this article is not intended to effect that outcome in any way.


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