Ill. Worker’s Procedural Missteps Bring Appeal to a Halt

08 Nov, 2023 Frank Ferreri

                               

Springfield, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) -- While courts often are forgiving of minor mistakes that parties without legal representation make, just because a claimant doesn't have an attorney doesn't mean he can circumvent the rules.

As a worker learned in Brinson v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, No. 2022 L 50090 (Ill. Ct. App. 10/30/23), filing an appeal in court -- with or without an attorney's help -- requires compliance with state procedural rules.

A worker filed an application for adjustment of a claim, seeking benefits for injuries sustained while working. Following a hearing, an arbitrator issued a written decision finding that the worker sustained an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment and that his current condition was causally related to that accident. The arbitrator awarded the worker 54 1/7 weeks of temporary total disability. The arbitrator also:

+ Ordered the employer to reimburse the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services $1,145.90.
+ Awarded the worker 200 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits for 38 percent loss of the use of the person as a whole.
+ Ordered the employer to authorize and pay for left knee arthroscopic surgery.
+ Continued treatment for the worker's right hip and low back conditions and all follow-up medical care associated with the worker's left knee surgery.

The employer filed a petition for review, and the commission modified the arbitrator's decision. According to the commission, the injuries sustained by the worker caused:

+ A 35 percent loss of use of the right leg.
+ A 10 percent loss of use of the left leg.
+ A 7.5 percent disability to the person as a whole.

In place of the arbitrator's award, the commission awarded the employee 134.25 weeks of PPD benefits.

The worker sought judicial review in court. The court confirmed the commission's decision. Going pro se, meaning that he did not have legal representation, the worker appealed to the next level in court.

An Illinois court rule requires that an appellant's brief contain a statement of facts "necessary to an understanding of the case, stated accurately and fairly without argument or comment, and with appropriate references to the pages of the record on appeal.

The worker's brief contained a statement of facts that covered only those facts that supported his claim of error on the court's part, and it also contained both argument and comment on the facts asserted.

Additionally, the brief failed to contain "even a single reference to the pages of the record on appeal supporting the facts asserted."

The court also highlighted that while the worker's brief argued that his attorney made false statements to "throw [his] case in favor" of the employer, the brief did not set forth any contentions addressed to the propriety of the commission's decision and did not contain citations to authority or pages of the record.

The court pointed out other deficiencies in the worker's brief, which included missing:

+ The judgment appealed from.
+ The notice of appeal.
+ A complete table of contents of the record of on appeal with page references.
+ The decisions of the arbitrator and the commission.
+ An appendix.

Regarding the worker's pro se status, the court explained that his lack of representation didn't mean the rules no longer applied to him.

"The fact that the claimant in this case is representing himself does not relieve him of the obligation to comply with the Illinois Supreme Court Rules governing briefs filed with this court," the court wrote.

Thus, the court dismissed the worker's appeal.

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

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