Articles Posted in Work Injuries

An Illinois appellate court for the Second District recently issued an opinion regarding a work-related negligence dispute. The facts of the action are as follows. The plaintiff was an employee of a company that provides both permanent and temporary employees to its clients. After the company places one of its employees with a client, the company assumes that the client will provide all supervision, direction, and control of the employee’s work with the client. The company notifies its employees that once they have been placed, they should expect to receive such direction from the client.

In December 2011, a business that provided industrial storage shelving installation services signed a national contract with the company, in which the company agreed to provide temporary employees to the plaintiff. It included terms describing the company’s policies regarding the provision of direction and control for those employees.

After this contract was signed, the plaintiff, who was an employee of the company, was directed to work for the shelving business. When the plaintiff arrived at the shelving business’ premises, he and five other employees were directed to assemble and install industrial shelving at a warehouse. In testimony, the plaintiff stated that he did not see any direct supervisors from the shelving company directing the employees’ work and that instead he took instructions from the permanent employees at the shelving business.

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In a recent case, an Illinois appellate court in the Sixth Division considered the potential liability of an elevator contractor who was responsible for inspecting an elevator and who was employed by the City of Chicago’s Bureau of Elevators. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the husband and the inspector were working as elevator servicepersons in Chicago in March 2015. While performing an inspection of elevators located inside an apartment building, the inspector ordered the husband to climb into the pit of an elevator shaft and to test components of the elevator. While the husband was inside the elevator, the inspector caused it to descend, striking the husband.

The husband filed a claim against the inspector and other defendants, including the City of Chicago, and his wife filed a claim for loss of consortium. Shortly after they filed the complaint, the husband died. Roughly two months later, the City of Chicago, a defendant in the action, brought a motion to dismiss, alleging that the action was barred according to sections 2-105 and 2-207 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Act).

Section 2-105 states:  “A local public entity is not liable for injury caused by its failure to make an inspection, or by reason of making an inadequate or negligent inspection, of any property, other than its own, to determine whether the property complies with or violates any enactment or contains or constitutes a hazard to health or safety.”

In moving to dismiss based on these provisions, the inspector stated that the lawsuit was improper based on the husband’s allegations that he was injured as a result of an improperly conducted inspection performed by a City of Chicago inspector.

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In a recent opinion issued by the First Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, the plaintiffs were employees of a temporary employment agency. In April 2010, they were sent to work at a retail store. While working at the retail store, a store supervisor was operating a vehicle in which the plaintiffs were riding when the vehicle was involved in a collision. The plaintiffs applied for workers’ compensation benefits with their temporary employment agency employer, which the insurance carrier paid without contest. They also filed a civil lawsuit against the retail store and the supervisor.

In response to the civil complaint, the store and the supervisor filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiffs’ exclusive remedy for damages was workers’ compensation benefits and that the plaintiffs were the retail store’s borrowed employees at the time the collision occurred. The plaintiffs appealed.

The appellate court first addressed the defendants’ claim that the plaintiffs were estopped from seeking civil damages from the retail store. One of the defendants’ primary arguments in support of this contention was that the accident occurred during the course and scope of employment. The plaintiffs disputed this, stating that the time spent in the vehicle was travel time to another location and was therefore not during the course and scope of employment. According to the appellate court, however, since the plaintiffs sought and received workers’ compensation damages for the accident, the plaintiffs could not argue that the accident did not occur during the course and scope of their employment.

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In a recent case, a claimant who was the widow of a deceased worker appealed an order from a lower court arising from a decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that denied the claimant’s request for a lump-sum payout of the benefits awarded to her. The facts of the underlying case are as follows. The claimant’s husband died when the crop duster he was piloting for his employer malfunctioned. After the accident occurred, the decedent’s employer began paying the plaintiff weekly payments in the amount of $1,231.41. After an arbitration hearing, the claimant was awarded death benefits at the amount of $461.78 per week.

Shortly thereafter, the claimant filed a petition for a lump sum payout. The Commissioner overseeing the matter conducted a hearing at which the claimant testified. In her testimony, she claimed she knew she was authorized to accept a $500,000 lump sum payment or periodic installments for 25 years. In her testimony, she also stated that the reason she wanted the lump sum payment was to gain control of the benefits and to prevent losing the benefits should some change in the law or other event affect her benefits award. She also testified that she was not seeking the lump sum payout due to financial hardship, that she had no minor children, and that her job at an ethanol plant was sufficient to meet her financial needs.

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The workers’ compensation system is intended to provide benefits to employees who are injured during the course and scope of their employment. In exchange for these benefits, employees are barred from suing their employer for civil damages, except in some very narrow circumstances. In the recent case of Morales, et al. v. Radio Flyer, Inc., et al., the plaintiffs were employed at a company called Express Employment Professionals, a temporary employment agency. In April 2010, the employees were instructed to work at a business called Radio Flyer, located in Chicago. While one of the supervisors at Radio was driving the employees, a collision occurred, and the plaintiffs suffered injuries.

Both plaintiffs filed claims for workers’ compensation benefits, which they received. The plaintiffs also filed a lawsuit against Radio and the supervisor who was driving at the time of the accident, seeking compensation for their injuries. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the exclusive remedy for their damages was the workers’ compensation system. The lower court granted this motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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