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06/09/88 Arthur J. Robinson, v. Kfc National Management

June 9, 1988

ARTHUR J. ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

KFC NATIONAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FOURTH DIVISION

525 N.E.2d 1028, 171 Ill. App. 3d 867, 121 Ill. Dec. 721

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Alan E. Morrill, Judge, presiding. 1988.IL.907

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE McMORROW delivered the opinion of the court. JIGANTI, P.J., and JOHNSON, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MCMORROW

Arthur Robinson (Robinson) filed suit against KFC National Management Co., Inc. (KFC National), to recover in tort for personal injuries he sustained while employed by KFC National. His injuries were allegedly caused by the malfunction of equipment made by KFC Manufacturing Corp. (KFC Manufacturing). Robinson's complaint was directed against his employer, KFC National, because the maker of the equipment, KFC Manufacturing, merged into KFC National prior to the date of Robinson's injuries.

KFC National moved to dismiss Robinson's complaint on the ground that he had already been awarded his sole remedy of workers' compensation benefits. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.5(a).) The trial court denied the motion to dismiss but certified as a question of law, which this court allowed by permissive interlocutory appeal (107 Ill. 2d R. 308(a)), the issue of whether an employee in Robinson's position can recover against his employer when the manufacturing corporation has merged with the employer corporation prior to the date of the employee's injuries.

We conclude that the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 48, par. 138.5(a)) does not bar an employee who has accepted workers' compensation benefits from maintaining a tort action against his employer, when the manufacturing corporation, by whom he was never employed, has merged with the employer corporation prior to the time of the employee's injuries.

Background

According to the allegations of Robinson's complaint and matters presented in support of KFC National's motion to dismiss, Robinson was injured in October 1982 by the explosion of a pressure cooker while he was working at a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant owned and operated by KFC National. The pressure cooker had been designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold by KFC Manufacturing. KFC Manufacturing merged into KFC National in August 1979. Robinson's complaint requested damages from KFC National, as successor corporation to KFC Manufacturing, based on principles of strict product liability and negligence.

Prior to filing his lawsuit, Robinson filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission to recover workers' compensation from KFC National relating to the injuries he sustained as a result of the accident. This claim was settled in December 1984. KFC National moved to dismiss Robinson's complaint because he had received these benefits. Following briefing and argument, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Finding that denial of the motion to dismiss involved a question of law for which there is a substantial ground for difference of opinion, and that an immediate appeal could materially advance the ultimate termination of the parties' litigation, the trial court certified the following question of law for review:

"Can an employee maintain a tort action against his employer when the employee was injured by an allegedly defective machine which was manufactured by a corporation that was merged into the employer corporation after the manufacture of the machine but prior to the date of injury so that the employer was the sole existing entity on the date of the occurrence?"

We allowed KFC National's motion for permissive interlocutory appeal to ...


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