U.S. District Court Affirms Dismissal of Wrongful Death Case Because of the Bar of a Direct Action Against Decedent’s Employer

A tire company will not face a lawsuit involving the wrongful death of one of its employees who was killed in a truck crash. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee wrote the opinion dismissing a wrongful-death lawsuit and survival claims against Pomp’s Tire Service Inc. on behalf of the Estate of Dustin Webster.

Federal District Court held that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act bars the claims that the Estate of Webster brought against his employer. The original lawsuit by the estate was filed in LaSalle County, Ill., under Illinois law but was removed to the U.S. District Court in Chicago under diversity jurisdiction.

Webster was killed in November 2017 when the truck he was driving for Pomp’s collided with another truck in LaSalle County.

The Webster Estate alleged that Pomp’s Tire Service forced him to work more than 40 hours per week and to work mandatory overtime without giving adequate time to rest.

Pomp’s knew the long hours of work would hurt Webster’s health and hamper his ability to drive safely, the Estate alleged. In addition to Pomp’s lawsuit, the Estate sued David Schimmel, the other driver involved in the collision, and his employer, FirstExpress Inc.

Schimmel was driving a truck on behalf of FirstExpress at the time of the crash.

The Estate’s wrongful-death and negligence claim against Schimmel and FirstExpress remained pending.

Judge Lee wrote that the Workers’ Compensation Act states that employees do not have any “common law or statutory right to recover damages from the employer” other than the workers’ compensation benefits available to them. Also, the act states that those benefits “shall be the measure of the responsibility of any employer” that is part of the workers’ compensation scheme.

Citing cases that included Luna v. United States, 454 F.3d 631 (7th Cir. 2006) and Folta v. Ferro Engineering, 43 N.E.3d 108 (Ill. 2015), Judge Lee wrote courts “have consistently interpreted these provisions to mean that workers’ compensation benefits are part of the ‘exclusive remedy’ for injured workers covered under the [Workers’ Compensation Act].” Judge Lee did acknowledge that there are sections to the exclusive-remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act. Those circumstances included when the injury was not accidental. An employee who maintains an injury that was not accidental must show the employer “acted deliberately and with specific intent to injure” the employee. Judge Lee noted that the Webster Estate did not make that showing.

“Illinois and federal courts that have addressed this issue have consistently concluded that exposure to possible harm is insufficient to fit within the non-accidental injury exception.”  Copass v. Illinois Power Co., 569 N.E.2d 1211 (Ill. App. Ct. 1991). Accordingly, the district court dismissed the wrongful death action as to Pomp’s Tire Service, Inc. only. The other defendants remain in the pending case.

Dennis Webster v. FirstExpress Inc., et al., No. 18 C 2777 (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling wrongful death cases, work injury lawsuits, construction injury lawsuits and truck accident cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Highwood, Glencoe, Wilmette, Franklin Park, Rosemont, Elk Grove Village, Addison, Rolling Meadows, Long Grove, Bannockburn, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, North Chicago, Gurnee, Wadsworth, Zion, Lincolnshire, Maywood, Hickory Hills, Bedford Park, Country Club Hills, Chicago Heights, Frankfurt, University Park, Willowbrook, Lansing, Lynwood, South Holland, Chicago (South Shore, East Side, Englewood, Logan Square, East Garfield Park, Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, Mont Clare, North Center, Bucktown, Uptown, Edgewater, Albany Park, Edison Park, Norwood Park), Schiller Park, River Grove, LaGrange Park, Brookfield, Western Springs and Summit, Ill.

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