January 04, 2008

Dismissal of Suit by Reason of the Exclusivity Provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act was Held to be Premature

January 04, 2008

William J. Foster v. John A. Johnson No. 1-06-0822

William Foster and John Johnson were both employees of the CTA in a Chicago facility.  On October 17, 2002, Johnson allegedly committed a battery against Foster and filed a civil action.  Initially, Foster had filed a workers’ compensation action stating that the CTA had paid $657 in medical treatment and had thereafter denied the claim alleging that the plaintiff’s injury did not arise  in the course of his employment.

The trial court dismissed the case on the basis of the printed briefs without actually hearing any evidence. The court held that the exclusivity clause of the Act precluded the plaintiff from filing a suit for battery because a workers’ compensation payment was made for some of his medical bills, regardless of the amount of the payment.

The appellate court reversed on the basis that the record lacked any facts describing the events and circumstances that preceded the altercation.  For example, there was no information which of the two combatants was the aggressor and what may have precipitated the physical altercation.  In referring the matter back to the trial court, the appellate court stated that:

We believe that the trial court must conduct a hearing on the facts and circumstances of the incident which gave rise to the lawsuit and the workers’ compensation claim.  There simply was not enough information upon which to determine whether the plaintiff had chosen the correct forum in which to advance his case.  Compensability under the Act must be established to defeat the plaintiff’s civil action against the defendant, individually.  We have no opinion regarding the outcome of such a hearing.  However, the specific facts and circumstances of this case require such an inquiry by the trial court prior to dismissing the plaintiff’s lawsuit.

Editor’s Note:

Clearly, the pleading did not discuss the relationship and a final determination could not be made until some evidence on this issue was available to the trial court, particularly because the CTA had actually denied that it had liability for workers’ compensation.

William J. Foster v. John A. Johnson No. 1-06-0822, decided December 26, 2007

Frank J. Wiedner, Editor Wiedner & McAuliffe, Ltd One North Franklin, #1900 Chicago, IL 60606 (312) 855-1105