Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Ruling that Injured Worker Requiring Amputation is Barred from Seeking Civil Damages from Borrowed Employer

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.

During the afternoon of his first day of employment, one of the permanent employees of the shelving business instructed the plaintiff to cut a band that was holding together metal pieces used for shelving. Immediately upon cutting the bands, the metal equipment shifted and trapped the plaintiff’s index finger. The plaintiff required a partial amputation of his index finger as a result.

The plaintiff brought a workers’ compensation claim against the company and filed a negligence lawsuit against the shelving business. The shelving business filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it was acting as a borrowing employer and that as a result, the plaintiff’s only remedy was workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court agreed with the shelving company’s assertion and dismissed the lawsuit. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court first reviewed the law of borrowed employees, which states that an employer can loan one of its employees to another employer to perform special work and that upon loaning that employee, the employee becomes the direct employee of the borrowing employer. Based on the evidence in the record, the appellate court concluded that the shelving business constituted a borrowing employer and that the shelving business had the right to direct and control the manner in which the plaintiff performed work. The court based this finding both on testimony from the plaintiff regarding the direction that the shelving business provided and the terms of the contract between the company and the shelving business. Accordingly, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the negligence claim against the shelving business, finding that workers’ compensation benefits were the plaintiff’s exclusive available remedy.

If you have been injured on the job, the dedicated and tenacious work injury lawyers at Therman Law Offices are standing by to assist you. We have counseled numerous injured employees throughout Chicago and know just how confusing the workers’ compensation system can seem. We provide a free consultation to help you learn about your legal options and how we may be able to assist you, so call us now at 312-588-1900 or contact us online.

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