Carter v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission 
By: Katie S. Lonze - Associate - Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry


The Claimant worked as a coal miner for 22 years.  His last day of work and exposure was September 24, 2004.  The Claimant was evaluated by Dr. William Houser and was diagnosed with mild COPD and arterial sclerotic heart disease with an age indeterminate anteroseptal myocardial infarct, not coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.  Nonetheless, the Claimant filed a claim alleging coal workers’ pneumoconiosis on September 3, 2008.  He also filed a claim under the Federal Black Lung Benefit Act.   

During the initial trial, the Claimant introduced the expert report of Dr. Lawrence Mayer, which stated that the Claimant’s claims should be governed by the five year Statute of Limitations for claims involving coal workers’ pneumoconiosis instead of the three year Statute of Limitations for other claims. He acknowledged that coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and COPD affected different parts of the lungs.

The Arbitrator found that the claim was time barred because it was not filed within the three year Statute of Limitations applicable to claims alleging occupational diseases other than coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.  The Commission and Circuit Court affirmed.  A Motion to Reconsider was filed and denied.  The case was appealed.

The Appellate Court rejected claimant’s statutory interpretation argument and held that by explicit terms, the five year limitations period of Section 6(c) applies only to claims for disability caused by coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, not claims for COPD.  The Court found that because coal workers’ pneumoconiosis and COPD are separate illnesses that affect different parts of the lung, COPD is not considered a type of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis.  Additionally, the Court stated that had the legislature intended to expand the SOL for COPD to five year, it would have done so.

The Court also found that the Equal Protection claim was waived because it was raised by the claimant for the first time in a motion for reconsideration before the Circuit Court.  However, the Court continued to summarily dismiss this argument because the equal protection clause does not preclude the State from enacting legislation that draws distinctions between different categories of people.

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