Clint Mason v. John Boos & Company, Westaff, Inc., and Real Time Staffing Services, Inc., 2011 Ill. App. LEXIS 1119, 2011 IL App (5th) 100399 (5th Dist. 2011) 
By: Suyon T. Flowers - Associate - Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry

Updated: January 15, 2012

 

The Petitioner was assigned by Westaff, a temporary employment agency, to work as a temporary employee at Boos Company on October 7, 2007. On November 7, 2007, the Petitioner was injured while working on a molding machine at the factory. As a result of his injuries, the Petitioner’s thumb and four of his fingers on his right hand were amputated.

The Petitioner filed an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Commission. The Petitioner and Westaff entered into a settlement agreement on October 29, 2009. The Petitioner also signed a release contained within the settlement agreement releasing all claims against the Defendants. The settlement was approved by the Commission on November 12, 2009.

Prior to the approval of the settlement, the Petitioner filed a negligence action in the Circuit court against the Defendants alleging that as a result of his injury, he had endured pain and suffering, had incurred medical bills, and was permanently disabled.

The Defendants filed motions to dismiss Petitioner’s negligence claims under two theories: 1) that Petitioner’s exclusive remedy for his claim was under the Worker’s Compensation Act and 2) that the release signed by the Petitioner in his settlement agreement before the Commission barred his negligent action against the Defendants. The Circuit court granted the Defendants’ motions with prejudice finding that the Worker’s Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for Petitioner’s claims and that the Petitioner’s negligence action had been released in the settlement agreement.

The Petitioner appealed. The first issue was whether the Defendants’ failure to register under the Employee Leasing Company Act prevented the application of the exclusive remedy provision under the Worker’s Compensation Act to both the loaning and borrowing employer. The second issue was whether the settlement agreement entered into by the parties before the Commission released the Petitioner’s negligence action.

As to whether the Defendants’ failure to register under the Employee Leasing Company Act prevented the application of the exclusive remedy provision under the Worker’s Compensation Act as to both the loaning and borrowing employer, the court
held that failure of an “employee leasing company” to register under the Employee Leasing Company Act did not result in a forfeiture of the exclusive remedy protection in the Worker’s Compensation Act.

Here, the Petitioner admitted that the exclusive remedy provision barred the negligence claim against the Defendants however he was not able to provide any case law to support his argument with respect to the forfeiture of the exclusive remedy protection with respect to failing to register under the Employee Leasing Company Act. The court found that the Employee Leasing Company Act provides that the only remedy for a violation to register is to revoke or deny registration. The court also noted that the Employee Leasing Company Act provides for penalties against uninsured employers one of which permits an employee to file a civil action against the uninsured employer who is not entitled to the benefits of the exclusive remedy provision during the period of noncompliance with the insurance requirements.

The court found that there was no issue that the injury occurred during the course of the Petitioner’s employment and there was no evidence that the Defendant was not insured, thus once an employee chooses to seek compensation under the Worker’s Compensation Act, any civil action is barred.

As to whether the settlement agreement released the Petitioner’s negligence action, the court held that the terms of the settlement contract release any and all claims arising out of his November 7, 2007, accident including any common law tort claim of negligence. The court noted that a rider attached to and incorporated into the settlement order stated as follows:

"In full, final and complete settlement of any and all claims of any nature whatsoever, including but not limited to past, present, and future time losses, medial, surgical and hospital expenses and for any and all permanent disability of whatever nature, allegedly arising out of an accident on or about 11/07/2007 and known and unknown injuries and sequelae which allegedly resulted or will result from said accident... Petitioner agrees that this settlement shall include all other claims of accident or injury, either by a specific accident or repetitive trauma, for all dates of work by Petitioner for Respondent not limited to the above date of loss." 

The court noted that for the Petitioner to receive a second recovery in civil court for the same injuries would result in a double recovery, which would lead to an unjust result. Thus, the court barred the Petitioner’s negligence claim since the release included language that it was a complete and final settlement of any and all claims of any nature and affirmed the Circuit court’s decision.

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