United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
CARLOS R. PIKE, Plaintiff,
PREMIER TRANSPORTATION & WAREHOUSING, INC. and DANIEL DUBEN SR., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. ROWLAND, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
brought this personal injury action against Defendants,
alleging that Duben was negligent in operating a semi-trailer
truck owned by Premier. The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). In November 2016, the case
proceeded to trial. While the jury was deliberating, the
parties informed the Court that they had entered into a
high-low settlement agreement,  pursuant to which they settled
the underlying claim. Pike now moves the Court to strike or
reduce the lien amount of $165, 950.61 requested by nonparty
Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters Welfare Fund (the
Fund). As discussed more fully below, the motion is denied.
Fund is a self-funded, multiemployer ERISA employee welfare
benefit plan (the Plan). Pike is a covered individual and a
participant in the Plan. The Plan provides for an equitable
right of reimbursement for any recovery from a third-party
tortfeasor. (Dkt. 90, Ex. 1). The Plan further provides that
the participant is responsible for payment of any
attorneys' fees. (Id.). The Fund is under no
obligation to pay benefits to covered individuals if the
claim is caused by a third party and will provide benefits
only in reliance on the participant's obligation to
reimburse the Fund upon conclusion of the third-party claim.
was injured in a motor-vehicle accident in September 2012 and
filed the instant cause of action against Defendants for
injuries he sustained. (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 1; Dkt. 90 at 2).
As a precondition for payment of medical expenses related to
the accident, Pike executed a Reimbursement Agreement as
required by the Plan, wherein he agreed to grant the Fund an
equitable lien on any recovery, waive the common-fund
doctrine, and assume responsibility for all attorneys'
fees incurred in pursuit of his claim against Defendants.
(Dkt. 90, Ex. 2, Reimbursement Agreement). The Fund has paid
out $165, 950.61 in medical and disability benefits covering
the injuries Pike sustained in the September 2012 accident.
(Dkt. 90, Ex. 4 (Galindo Decl.) at ¶ 7 & Ex. E).
case proceeded to trial on November 14, 2016. (Dkt. 68). On
November 17, while the jury was deliberating, the parties
informed the Court that they had entered into a high-low
settlement agreement (Settlement Agreement). (Dkt. 77; Dkt.
84 at ¶ 3). The jury returned a verdict in favor of
Defendants and against Plaintiff (Dkt. 81), which triggered
the Settlement Agreement's minimum award. (Dkt. 84 at
¶ 3). After failed settlement discussions between Pike
and the Fund (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 4 & Ex. A), Pike filed
the instant motion.
contends that the Fund is not entitled to any reimbursement
because the jury “‘diminished' the claim to
zero based upon (among other things) Mr. Pike's own
negligence.” (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 7). Pike argues that
because the jury reduced his claim to zero, the Fund's
subrogation claims should be reduced as well. (Id.
¶¶ 6-7). But the verdict indicates only that the
jury found for Defendants and against Pike. (Dkt. 81). If the
jury made a comparative fault calculation, it was not
recorded. Pike suggests that the Court should consider the
jury's post-verdict discussions with the Court and
counsel. (Dkt. 84 at ¶ 7). However, such discussions
were not recorded and, more importantly, are inadmissible.
Fed.R.Evid. 606(b)(1) (“During an inquiry into the
validity of a verdict or indictment, a juror may not testify
about any statement made or incident that occurred during the
jury's deliberations; the effect of anything on that
juror's or another juror's vote; or any juror's
mental processes concerning the verdict or indictment. The
court may not receive a juror's affidavit or evidence of
a juror's statement on these matters.”).
the jury verdict was supplanted by the parties'
Settlement Agreement. Illinois courts have long recognized
that high-low agreements are settlement
agreements. Pinske v. Allstate Prop. & Cas.
Ins. Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 150537, ¶ 22
A high-low agreement, when initially reached by the parties .
. . is, in fact, a conditional settlement. The condition of
the agreement is that the jury render[s] a verdict that falls
outside the range of the high-low agreement. When a verdict
is rendered outside of the agreed-upon range, the condition
is triggered and the “high” or the
“low” becomes binding upon the parties as a
settlement. By contrast, when a jury renders a verdict within
the range of the high-low agreement, the condition is not met
and the high-low agreement is rendered academic.
Id., ¶ 23 (citation omitted). Therefore, when
the Pike jury returned a verdict below the range of the
Settlement Agreement, “the verdict was supplanted by
the parties' agreement” and triggered the minimum
settlement amount. Id. (citation omitted). The
settlement award “was not determined by the jurors, but
rather, by the parties themselves.” Id.
(citation omitted). And the Reimbursement Agreement between
Pike and the Plan clearly applies when a settlement is
reached between a Plan participant and a third-party
tortfeasor, as occurred in this case. (Reimbursement
Agreement ¶ 5).
also relies on the jury verdict to assert that the Illinois
Health Care Services Lien Act (Lien Act) precludes the Fund
from receiving any reimbursement from the settlement
proceeds, or, at a minimum that the Fund must “bear its
pro rate share of attorney fees and costs under the
statute.” (Dkt. 84 at ¶¶ 6-7). The Lien Act
addresses subrogation claims in pertinent part as follows:
If a subrogation claim . . . that arises out of the payment
of medical expenses . . . with respect to a claim for
personal injury . . ., ...