Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Civil Action Seeking Damages for Work-Related Injuries

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.

One of the arguments the plaintiffs advanced on appeal was that they were not working in their capacity as employees at the time the accident occurred, and therefore they were not restricted to workers’ compensation benefits. The appellate court quickly dismissed this argument, however, noting that the fact that the plaintiffs accepted workers’ compensation benefits meant that they were working in their employment capacity at the time the injuries occurred. The plaintiffs also attempted to argue that they were working in their capacity as employees of Express but not in their capacity as employees of Radio. The appellate court also quickly dismissed this argument, citing an Illinois Supreme Court case stating that an employee who has collected benefits from the workers’ compensation system cannot pursue damages in a civil action for the same harm.

The appellate court next reviewed the law regarding “borrowed employees” to establish that both Express and Radio constituted employers of the plaintiffs at the time the accident occurred. To determine whether an employee has been borrowed, courts will examine whether the special employer had the right to control the employee’s work and whether there was a contract, either express or implied, between the employee and the special employer. Reviewing the record, the appellate court concluded that Radio had the right to control the plaintiffs’ work.

Finally, the court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that they could seek civil damages from the employers because the accident occurred outside the scope of their employment. The court rejected this argument, noting that the plaintiffs were traveling with the supervisor to a remote location for the purpose of performing work for Radio’s benefit.

If you have suffered injuries in a job-related accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Understanding the scope of your rights as an injured employee and whether you should seek workers’ compensation benefits is a complicated endeavor, especially if you are coping with painful injuries. At Therman Law Offices, we have assisted many Illinois victims with assessing their legal rights and helping them determine an appropriate course of action after a car accident. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.

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