Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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McAllister injured his knee while working as a sous chef for a restaurant. The injury occurred as he stood up from a kneeling position while attempting to retrieve food that had been misplaced in the cooler. He had previously had surgery on the knee and had received workers’ compensation benefits at that time. An arbitrator awarded him workers’ compensation benefits but the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed, finding that the injury did not “arise out of” his employment. The circuit court and the Appellate Court, Workers’ Compensation Commission Division, affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The injury arose out of an employment-related risk; the acts that caused the injury were risks incident to his employment because these were acts his employer might reasonably expect him to perform in fulfilling his assigned job duties. McAllister was responsible for arranging the walk-in cooler and had a duty to find misplaced food. The court overruled certain cases to the extent that they held that injuries attributable to common bodily movements or routine everyday activities, such as bending, twisting, reaching, or standing up from a kneeling position, are not compensable unless a claimant can prove that he was exposed to a risk of injury from these common bodily movements or routine everyday activities to a greater extent than the general public. View "McAllister v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission" on Justia Law

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In 2009-2011, Hernandez sustained on-the-job injuries and received medical treatment. In 2016, she filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition and reported unsecured claims held by three health care providers to whom she owed $28,709.60, $58,901.20, and $50,161.26 respectively. She reported minimal assets: $1300 in bank accounts and her pending workers’ compensation claim, valued at $31,000. Two days after filing her petition, Hernandez settled her workers’ compensation claim for $30,566.33 without consulting the bankruptcy trustee. She believed the settlement was exempt under section 21 of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/21). That statute provides: “No payment, claim, award or decision under this Act shall be assignable or subject to any lien, attachment or garnishment, or be held liable in any way for any lien, debt, penalty or damages….” The health care providers objected; the district court ruled in their favor.The Illinois Supreme Court answered a question of Illinois law certified by the Seventh Circuit: After the 2005 amendments to section 8 of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the enactment of section 8.2 of the Act, section 21 of the Act does exempt the proceeds of a workers’ compensation settlement from the claims of medical-care providers who treated the illness associated with that settlement or injury. View "In re Hernandez" on Justia Law

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The 2007 Act, 40 ILCS 5/16-106(10), amended the Pension Code, which governs the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS): An officer or employee of a statewide teachers’ union was permitted to establish TRS service credit if the individual: was certified as a teacher no later than February 27, 2007, applied to the TRS within six months, and paid into the system both the employee contribution and employer (state) contribution, plus interest, for his prior union service. Plaintiff worked as a union lobbyist from 1997 until his 2012 retirement. In 2006, plaintiff obtained a substitute teaching certificate. In January 2007, he worked one day as a substitute teacher. Within six months, plaintiff became a member of the TRS. Plaintiff then contributed $192,668 to the system for his union service. In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published an article, identifying plaintiff and criticizing the law that allowed him to qualify for a teacher’s pension. In response to the negative media coverage, the 2012 Act repealed the 2007 amendment and provided for a refund of contributions. TRS eliminated plaintiff’s service credits and refunded his contributions. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the retroactive repeal violated the state constitution’s pension protection clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIII).The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff. The 2007 amendment's inclusion of a cutoff date did not render it unconstitutional special legislation (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV); the amendment applied generally to all eligible employees who met its criteria. Under the pension clause, “once a person commences to work and becomes a member of a public retirement system, any subsequent changes to the Pension Code that would diminish the benefits conferred by membership in the retirement system cannot be applied to that person.” View "Piccioli v. Board of Trustees of the Teachers’ Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed by American since 1988. On January 1, 2012, while working as a tower planner at O’Hare, plaintiff received a call from a friend at another airline, asking plaintiff to do something for a passenger who was scheduled to fly on American. Plaintiff requested that the catering department deliver a bottle of champagne and asked a flight attendant whether it would be possible to upgrade the passenger. The passenger was upgraded to first class. Plaintiff's employment was terminated because she upgraded the passenger and requested the champagne without proper authorization. American cited employee policies concerning dishonesty. Plaintiff applied for unemployment insurance benefits with the Department of Employment Security. American protested, alleging that plaintiff was ineligible because she was “discharged for misconduct connected with [her] work,” under the Unemployment Insurance Act, 820 ILCS 405/602(A). Following a hearing, a Department referee denied plaintiff’s application. The Board of Review affirmed. The circuit court reversed, finding that the actions which led to plaintiff’s discharge did not constitute “misconduct” under the strict statutory definition. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the circuit court decision, finding no illegal or intentionally tortious conduct, nor evidence of a deliberate rule violation. View "Petrovic v. Dep't of Emp't Sec." on Justia Law