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Unless a decision of a Workers’ Compensation Commission is final, the Circuit Court cannot review issues raised by the claim.

In Supreme Catering v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the victim got injured in a car accident while working for Supreme Catering. The victim presented medical bills in the amount of $141,017.00 and claimed temporary total disability benefits, TTD, of $200.00 per week for 52 5/7 weeks. The respondent disputed the matter on the issue of employer-employee relationship, denying the claim for compensation. The arbitrator found that the claimant was not an employee of the employer.

The claimant filed a petition for review of the arbitrator’s decision. The commission found that an employer-employee relationship did exist between the respondent and the victim. It ordered the responded to pay TTD for 52 5/7 weeks at the rate of $200.00 per week. It also ordered the medical bills paid.

The respondent appealed the commission’s decision to the circuit court. The circuit court found that the commission had not “sufficiently explained” its decision. It remanded back down to the commission to “explain” its decision.

The commission “explained” its decision. The respondent appealed again to the circuit court. The court confirmed the decision of the commission. The responded appealed the circuit court’s decision.

The appellate court found that the commission recited that it considered the nature and extent of the injury but actually made no decision on that issue. The commission’s decision noted that the petitioner’s treater had sought a functional capacity evaluation. The commission remanded to the arbitrator for determination of the claimant’s need for vocational rehabilitation and/or maintenance, as well as any need for future treatment.

No party raised the issue of jurisdiction. Instead, the appellate court did so sua sponte. The appellate court determined that it had no jurisdiction because the order of the commission is not “final”.

The appellate court found that a judgment is only “final” if it determines the litigation on the merits. It is not final if it leaves an issue undecided. In making the determination of finality the question is whether administrative involvement has been terminated or if the commission has further administrative proceedings. The court addressed language in both a supreme case and in the Workers’ Compensation Act, which appear to make 19(b) decision appeal-able. The 19(b) provides the arbitrator may find the disabling condition is temporary. The award is reviewable and enforceable in the same manner as other awards, and in “no instance shall be a bard to further” proceedings. The court saw this language, which was cited by the supreme court, does not make a non-final decision appeal-able. Neither the Supreme Court case (Thomas v. Ind. Comm’n 78 Ill.2d 327, 399 NE2d 1322 (1980)) permits carte blanche judicial review of non-final decision.

The appellate court is right. A party is not allowed to bounce a case between courts like a pinball. The ruling helps expedite cases. It keeps the cases simple by prohibiting the “explanation” of non-final orders. The initial remand in this case from the circuit court to the commission directing the commission to “explain” its non-final order was also inappropriate.

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