Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed December 19, 2013

 

 

  

The Venture—Newberg-Perini, Stone & Webster v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Comm’n, 2013 IL 115728

 

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (4th) 110847.

 

      CHIEF JUSTICE GARMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Kilbride dissented, with opinion.

 

      The vicinity of Cordova, which is on the Mississippi River 200 miles from Springfield, was the scene of a 2006 automobile accident in which this workers’ compensation claimant was seriously injured. Springfield was where he resided and where his plumbers’ and pipefitters’ union was, but he had been unable to find work close to home. He arranged to work temporarily for The Venture, the plaintiff here, at this distant location where it had a facility. He stayed at a motel 30 miles from the worksite with a coworker, also from Springfield, who was driving when the accident occurred.

      The general rule of workers’ compensation is that an injury incurred by an employee in going to or returning from the place of employment is not compensable, being viewed as not arising out of or in the course of employment. However, there is an exception for what are categorized as “traveling employees.” Various interpretations concerning the application of this exception determined the progress of this dispute through the courts.

      The claim of Ronald Daugherty was first heard by an arbitrator, who denied it. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed, but, on administrative review, the circuit court of Sangamon County set aside the Commission’s finding. The Workers’ Compensation Division of the Appellate Court granted relief to Daugherty, and the employer appealed. The appellate court’s judgment is now reversed.

      In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the claimant was not a “traveling employee” and could not be compensated. The employer did not direct the employee to accept the position at this location, and he accepted it with full knowledge of the commute involved. His course or method of travel was not determined by the demands and exigencies of the job. He was not reimbursed for travel expenses or travel time or told what route to take. The Commission’s finding that the employee could be compensated was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and the circuit court’s judgment setting it aside was affirmed.