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Sargent v. Cottrell

November 16, 2007

MICHAEL D. SARGENT AND JACQUELINE SARGENT, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COTTRELL, INC., DAIMLER-CHRYSLER CORP. F/K/A CHRYSLER CORP. AND ALBERT CASSENS, DEFENDANTS, AND CASSENS TRANSPORT COMPANY, RESPONDENT IN DISCOVERY.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. Introduction

Removed here on the basis of diversity jurisdiction, this case involves injuries sustained by Michael Sargent while attempting to climb onto a rig manufactured by Defendant Cottrell, Inc. The suit alleges that Sargent was attempting to unload Chrysler vehicles at a Chrysler dealership and was operating a "truck, trailer with headrack" manufactured by Cottrell. While in the course of Sargent's duties, he slipped and sustained "severe and permanent injuries" to his low back and related areas. See amended complaint at Doc. 52.

Now before the Court is Cassens Transport Company's motion to dismiss (Doc. 63). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the motion.

II. Analysis

Cassens Transports' motion seeks dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). When reviewing a complaint in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal motion, the Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and resolves in the plaintiff's favor all reasonable inferences. Hollander v. Brown, 457 F.3d 688, 690 (7th Cir. 2006); County of McHenry v. Insurance Co. of the West, 438 F.3d 813, 817 (7th Cir. 2006).A complaint should be dismissed only if there is "no set of facts, even hypothesized, that could entitle a plaintiff to relief." Massey v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., 464 F.3d 642 (7th Cir. 2006).

In the case at bar, Cassens Transport seeks dismissal on two grounds:

(1) Cassens Transport is not and cannot be named as a Defendant because Sargent was an employee of Cassens Transport at the time of the incident which is the subject of the Sargents' suit, and Sargent is, therefore, foreclosed from instituting a direct cause of action against Cassens Transport based on the exclusivity of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act; and (2) the Sargents cannot maintain an action against Cassens Transport in a capacity as a "respondent in discovery," because that proceeding is a creature of state court rules and is unknown to the federal rules.

The Sargents respond that (1) under Seventh Circuit case law, an entity named as a respondent in discovery in an action filed in state court is not entitled to dismissal if that action is removed to federal court simply based upon its status as a respondent in discovery; and (2) they could state a claim against Cassens Transport if they allege and demonstrate that Sargent was not covered by the provisions of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act when he was injured.

A. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act ("IWCA") contains an exclusivity provision which bars an employee from bringing a common law suit against an employer for an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment which is compensable under the Act.Small v. Chicago Health Clubs, Inc., 843 F.Supp. 398, 402 (N.D.Ill. 1994) (citing Jaskowski v. Rodman & Renshaw, Inc., 813 F.Supp. 1359, 1362 (N.D.Ill.1993) (citing Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, 820 ILCS 305/1). The Sargents do not dispute that Cassens Transport is Michael Sargent's employer. Additionally, in their Amended Complaint, they assert that Michael Sargent was injured in the course of his employment. Am. Compl., p. 2. Consequently, it appears that the Sargents are foreclosed from instituting a direct cause of action against Cassens Transport based on the exclusivity of the IWCA. For the Court to sustain the Sargents' claim that they could allege that Sargent was not covered by the provisions of the IWCA would place the Court in the untenable position of assuming that a factual basis exists for a conclusory allegation that is inconsistent with factual allegations in the complaint. No precedent of which this Court is aware suggests that this would be proper.

The Sargents' reliance on Jass v. Prudential Health Care Plan, Inc., 88 F.3d 1482 (7th Cir. 1996), is unfounded. In Jass, the plaintiff named her treating physician as a respondent in discovery in state court and, after the case was removed to federal court, amended her complaint to name her treating physician as a defendant. There is no analysis or discussion of the issue before this Court and, in reality, any relevance to the instant matter is simply to state the obvious: if the Sargents moved for leave to amend their complaint to name Cassens Transport as a defendant, the Court would consider that motion under the same liberal standard it would apply to any motion for leave to amend. SeeFED.R.CIV.P. 15(a) (Leave to file an amended complaint "shall be freely given when justice so requires."). That Cassens Transport was previously named as a respondent in discovery would not affect that determination.

Because the Court's dismissal is without prejudice, the Sargents may move for leave to amend to add Cassens Transport as a defendant should discovery provide evidence that Sargent was not ...


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