SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS
SARAH E. HALL, Conservator of the Estate and Person of Paul
524 N.E.2d 586, 122 Ill. 2d 448, 120 Ill. Dec. 556 1988.IL.781
Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that count on appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County, the Hon. Richard E. Mann, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MILLER
Paul A. Hall sustained serious injuries on July 22, 1981, when he fell through an opening in a catwalk at the site of a construction project of the Archer-Daniels-Midland Corporation in Decatur. In an action filed in the circuit court of Sangamon County, plaintiff Sarah E. Hall, as conservator of the estate and person of Paul A. Hall, sought recovery for Paul's injuries under the Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 48, pars. 60 through 69). Named as defendants in the action were ADM and the company that had erected the catwalk, Mid-States General and Mechanical Contracting Corporation (Mid-States). The plaintiff later added a third count to her complaint, in which she alleged willful and wanton misconduct by ADM and requested an award of punitive damages. ADM filed a counterclaim against Mid-States and a third-party complaint against Hall's employer, Corrigan Company (Corrigan), for contribution under "An Act in relation to contribution among joint tortfeasors" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 70, pars. 301 through 305) (the Contribution Act), alleging violations by those parties of the Structural Work Act. The plaintiff and ADM eventually entered into a settlement agreement. Under that agreement, the plaintiff executed a release of all parties in exchange for a lumpsum payment of $1,500,000 by ADM together with indemnification by ADM for any lien claim by Corrigan for workers' compensation payments. The trial Judge approved the settlement and dismissed the plaintiff's complaint with prejudice.
ADM pursued its contribution actions against Mid-States and Corrigan. The matter was tried before a jury, which found in favor of ADM and against both contribution defendants. The jury determined the parties' shares of contribution in the following proportions: ADM, 12%; Mid-States, 48%; Corrigan, 40%. On motion for entry of judgment, ADM submitted information showing that the amount of Corrigan's workers' compensation payments to Hall was $143,728, which made the total cost of the settlement $1,643,728. Accordingly, the trial Judge entered judgment in ADM's favor against Mid-States for $788,989, or 48% of the total amount, and against Corrigan for $657,491, or 40% of the total amount.
Corrigan and Mid-States appealed. The appellate court reversed the judgment and remanded the cause for further proceedings. (142 Ill. App. 3d 200.) Although the appellate court rejected a number of challenges made by Corrigan and Mid-States to the contribution judgment, the court agreed with those parties that ADM, having settled the plaintiff's action, was required by section 2(e) of the Contribution Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 70, par. 302(e)) to extinguish all liability of Corrigan, including that for workers' compensation benefits, before bringing an action for contribution against Corrigan. The appellate court believed that ADM had failed to satisfy that requirement of the Contribution Act. The appellate court reversed the circuit court's judgment against Corrigan and, to maintain consistency in verdicts, reversed the judgment against Mid-States as well. We allowed ADM's petition for leave to appeal. See 107 Ill. 2d R. 315(a).
The release executed by the plaintiff provided:
"The undersigned, Sarah E. Hall, Conservator of the Estate and Person of Paul A. Hall, an incompetent, in consideration of:
1. A payment of One Million, Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($1,500,000.00) and
2. An agreement by Archer Daniels Midland Company to indemnify and hold harmless Sarah E. Hall, Conservator of the Estate and Person of Paul A. Hall, and her attorneys from all claims upon the above-mentioned cash settlement which are held by, may be held by, or which hereafter may be asserted by Corrigan Company or its insurers with respect to any lien arising from worker's compensation benefits paid to the said conservator or her ward
hereby releases and forever discharges Archer Daniels Midland Company, Mid-States General and Mechanical Contracting Corporation, [and] Corrigan Company, . . . from any and all claims, . . . which the undersigned or ...