Workers' compensation lawsuit dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction

By Mary Ann Magnell | Nov 18, 2018

MT. VERNON, Ill.— An appellate court recently dismissed a lawsuit for lack of appellate jurisdiction in a 2014 worker's compensation claim case under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (Act) against Bi-State Development Agency, doing business as Metro Transit. 

Fifth District Appellate Court Justice John B. Barberis, Jr. delivered the Sept. 26 judgment, which stemmed from a worker’s compensation claim in which plaintiff Tangula Brown stepped on a broken sidewalk in April 2014, alleging a contusion and a torn meniscus in her left knee. 

In contention were the bills that arose from a subsequent surgery, as Metro disputed its liability for Brown’s meniscus tear. Following her surgery and the settlement, Metro argued that it was only liable for the expenses pertaining to the contusion and not the meniscus tear. 

Brown contended based on the contract language, that “Metro was liable for all expenses, including her surgery procedure to repair her meniscus tear.” She pointed specifically to the settlement contract in which she would be held “harmless” by Metro for any medical bills paid by her group health insurance to date.


Justice John Barberis  

Further, she stated that any ambiguity in the settlement contract should be “interpreted against Metro.” 

In May 2016, the commission concluded that the language in the settlement did not include the medical expenses for Brown’s meniscus surgery. Brown appealed.

Metro “failed to appear” at a hearing on Oct. 26, 2016 in which the circuit court requested that both parties propose orders within 14 days. Further, the court found that Metro had "deliberately made itself liable for medical expenses to escape further litigation. It not only claimed it paid all of Plaintiff’s medical expenses, but also promised to hold Plaintiff harmless from expenses paid by group health insurance."

In May 2017, Metro filed a petition to vacate the circuit court’s November 2016 order because it alleged it had “never received a copy of the court’s order until April 13, 2017.” 

Metro asserted, according to the court filing, that the court had entered its order on Nov. 7, 2016. On April 18, 2017, Metro notified the court that there were two conflicting orders entered on Nov. 7, 2016, and Jan. 3, 2017. 

On May 31, 2017, Brown filed a petition requesting the circuit court deny Metro’s petition to vacate the Nov. 7, 2016, order, asserting that “because metro failed to timely file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the court’s Nov. 7, 2016, final order, the court lacked jurisdiction to hold a hearing.”

Brown maintained that if the defendant "had been monitoring the case as required by law, it would have become aware of the Court’s November 7, 2016 Order."

The circuit court found that Metro “had failed to present a meritorious defense under section 2-1401.” Although the court subsequently granted Metro’s motion for a stay of execution of judgment and for approval of proof of self-insurance as a bond,” the court found that the proof of insurance was “sufficient to serve as security for the payment of the judgment.”

 

Appellate Court of Illinois, Fifth District No. 5-17-0239

 

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