2-14-12; An Illinois Workers’ Compensation claim, stemming from a 2000(!!!) work injury, made it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2012.

On January 25, 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the cases where petitions for leave to appeal were allowed including Aber v. American Home Assurance, No. 113476. Aber was allegedly injured in 2000 while pulling a tarp over a trailer and working for Metal Transportation Systems. An ex-parte hearing was held and Aber was awarded benefits against the employer only.

The decision obviously went final and claimant Aber filed for and received a judgment in Circuit Court against Metal Transportation Systems. Claimant subsequently learned the company was preparing to file for bankruptcy and it was insured by AIG. After learning AIG insured Metal Transportation Systems, Aber filed a motion before the Arbitrator assigned to add AIG as a party respondent in her workers’ compensation case.

This motion was denied and the Commission, as well as the Circuit Court, and Appellate Court affirmed the denial. The Appellate Court noted due process would not permit a workers’ compensation claimant to enforce an award against the insurance carrier without first filing a separate action.

Due to the fact the matter was heard in an ex-parte setting, the Court noted AIG wasn’t afforded notice of the hearing and therefore did not have the opportunity to defend the action, investigate the case before the hearing, obtain an independent medical examination or cross-examine claimant Aber.

In February 2007, Aber filed a complaint in Circuit Court against AIG seeking payment of the workers’ compensation award. AIG moved to dismiss under 2-619.1 alleging Aber’s claims failed to state a cause of action and the Circuit Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The complaint was dismissed and Aber appealed to the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court noted Circuit Court involvement in workers' compensation cases is authorized in only two circumstances. The first, under section 19(f), authorizes appeals directly from the Commission's findings of law and fact. 820 ILCS 305/19(f) (West 2002). The second, under section 19(g), authorizes orders enforcing the Commission's award. 820 ILCS 305/19(g) (West 2002).

As the Circuit Court’s involvement was not authorized by either of these sections the Appellate Court failed to see how the Circuit Court would have subject matter over the action against AIG and upheld the Circuit Court decision. We will see where the Supreme Court goes with this and report any noteworthy results.

This article was researched and written by Matthew Ignoffo, J.D. Please feel free to contact Matt about it at mignoffo@keefe-law.com.