Who Has Jurisdiction Over the Interpertation of Worker's Compensation Insurance Policy the Commission or the Circuit Court ?
In Employers Mutual Cos. v. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d 284, 644 N.E.2d 1163, 206 Ill. Dec. 110 (1994), the supreme court was asked to determine the scope of the Commission's and the circuit court's jurisdiction over the interpretation of a workers' compensation insurance policy. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 286.
It determined that the circuit court has original jurisdiction over all justiciable issues under the Illinois Constitution. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 287, citing Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, 9.
However, in enacting the Act, the legislature also vested original jurisdiction over workers' compensation matters with the Commission, giving both forums concurrent jurisdiction. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 287; 820 ILCS 305/18 (West 1992).
The court then explained that in order for the Commission to have primary jurisdiction, the legislature must divest the circuit court of its jurisdiction, or the Commission must be able to provide a specialized or technical expertise that would help resolve the controversy. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 288.
After analyzing the language of the Act, the court determined that by itself, section 18 of the Act, which grants the Commission the power to determine "'[a]H questions arising under this Act,'" did not sufficiently divest the circuit court of its original jurisdiction over the interpretation of an insurance contract presented in a declaratory judgment action. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 287, quoting 820 ILCS 305/18 (West 1992); NL Industries, 152 Ill. 2d at 96-97.
Additionally, the interpretation of an insurance contract, whatever its subject matter, did not require the expertise of an administrative agency for a proper interpretation; thus, the circuit court retained primary jurisdiction. Skilling, 163 Ill. 2d at 289.