New Illinois law allows workers to sue third-party service organizations

On June 5, 2014, Senate Bill 3287 passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and was signed into law by Governor Quinn, becoming Public Act 98-33. The law eliminates immunity for third-party maintenance or service corporations from third-party lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. 

The law went into effect immediately.

The new law was passed in response to a recent appellate court decision. In Brenda Mockbee v. Humphrey Manlift Co. Inc., the First District Appellate Court ruled that a worker who was left paraplegic after a work accident could not file a lawsuit against safety consultants who were hired by her employer, Quaker Oats.

The new law allows injured workers like Mockbee to file a civil lawsuit against a negligent third-party maintenance company hired by an employer. Independent maintenance organizations that provide independent services to an employer are thus subject to liability in court, while a service company that is wholly owned by the employer or wholly owned by the employer’s broker or insurer are still protected from civil lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions.

The new law “reaffirmed 45 years of legal precedent,” according to Stephen D. Phillips, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The law does not increase workers’ compensation benefits paid by the employer.

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