On January 21, 2022, the Supreme Court of Illinois, in Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC, clarified the application of workers compensation (WC) exclusive remedy protection for a general contractor that is not the immediate employer of an injured employee, ruling that exclusive remedy does not depend on the payment of WC benefits and is only conferred upon immediate employers of the injured employee.
In this case, an employee of a subcontractor performing work for a general contractor filed for WC benefits for a workplace injury and sued the general contractor for personal injuries. The general contractor was the parent company and sole owner of the subcontractor and paid WC insurance premiums and benefits for its subcontractors and employees. In its review, the court relied on the Workers’ Compensation Act exclusive remedy statute 820 ILCS 305/5. Applying the statute to the facts of the case, the court reasoned that exclusive remedy immunity is only conferred upon immediate employers and does not depend upon the payment of benefits. The court found that because the general contractor and the subcontractor operated as separate and distinct entities—with separate tax identification numbers, executives, project superintendents, and workers—only the immediate employer of the injured worker was immune from the lawsuit under exclusive remedy, and it was undisputed that the general contractor was not the employee’s immediate employer. Thus, the court concluded the general contractor could be sued in tort by the injured employee of the subcontractor.
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