Meerbrey v. Marshall Field and Co., Inc.

Decision Date30 November 1990
Docket NumberNo. 69652,69652
Citation564 N.E.2d 1222,139 Ill.2d 455,151 Ill.Dec. 560
Parties, 151 Ill.Dec. 560 Kenneth A. MEERBREY, Appellant, v. MARSHALL FIELD AND COMPANY, INC., et al., Appellees.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Thomas P. Cernek and Mark H. Barinholtz, Chicago, for appellant.

Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, Chicago (Douglas L. Prochnow and Mark P. Miller, of counsel), for appellees.

Justice WARD delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff, Kenneth Meerbrey, brought an action in the circuit court of Cook County against the defendants, Marshall Field & Company (Marshall Field) and its agent, Tim Marcolini, seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages for false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution. The trial court dismissed Marshall Field from counts II through V of the plaintiff's complaint, on the ground that the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.5(a)) barred the plaintiff's common law cause of action. The trial court also dismissed defendant Marcolini from counts III through V of the complaint for failure to allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 110, par. 2-615). The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of Marshall Field from counts II through V of the complaint and the dismissal of Marcolini from count V of the complaint, but reversed the trial court's dismissal of Marcolini from counts III and IV of the complaint. (189 Ill.App.3d 1085, 137 Ill.Dec. 191, 545 N.E.2d 952.) We allowed the plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal (107 Ill.2d R. 315(a)).

According to the allegations in the pleadings, Marshall Field employed the plaintiff as a part-time cashier and defendant Marcolini as a security guard. On January 19, 1985, the plaintiff was summoned to the security offices of Marshall Field, where he was questioned by Marcolini regarding the alleged theft of approximately $600 from Marshall Field. During this interview, the plaintiff took a polygraph test and ultimately signed a restitution form and promissory note regarding the theft. Thereafter, the plaintiff paid Marshall Field $500 under the terms of the note.

On February 12, 1985, the plaintiff returned to Marshall Field for the purpose of obtaining his payroll check for past earnings. According to the allegations in the complaint, the plaintiff was arrested and forcibly taken to security offices by defendant Marcolini and other security personnel. Marshall Field and its agents then summoned members of the Chicago police department, who took the plaintiff into custody, escorted him through the store in handcuffs and transported him to police headquarters. The complaint also alleged that Marshall Field, through its agent, Rochella Davis, filed a criminal complaint charging the plaintiff with criminal trespass. The plaintiff alleged that he was placed on trial for that offense and that the trial culminated in his favor.

The plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County against Marshall Field and Marcolini alleging various causes of action. Count I of the plaintiff's original complaint sought to enjoin Marshall Field and Marcolini from ejecting plaintiff from Marshall Field's store. The circuit court dismissed this count and this dismissal was later affirmed on appeal. (169 Ill.App.3d 1014, 120 Ill.Dec. 463, 524 N.E.2d 228.) Count II of the plaintiff's complaint alleged that Marshall Field and Marcolini falsely imprisoned him on January 19, 1985, and sought compensatory and punitive damages for the anguish, anxiety, hunger and thirst, fear and humiliation he was caused to suffer. Counts III through V of the plaintiff's complaint, which related to the events on February 12, 1985, alleged that Marshall Field and Marcolini were liable for false imprisonment (count III), false arrest (count IV), and malicious prosecution (count V), and sought compensatory and punitive damages from both defendants. As stated, the trial court dismissed Marshall Field from counts II through V of the plaintiff's complaint, on the ground that they were barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.5(a)). The trial court also dismissed defendant Marcolini from counts III through V of the complaint for failure to allege sufficient facts to state a cause of action. (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 110, par. 2-615.) The appellate court affirmed the dismissal of Marshall Field from counts II through V of the complaint and the dismissal of Marcolini from count V of the complaint, but reversed the trial court's dismissal of Marcolini from counts III and IV of the complaint.

Three issues are presented for review: (1) whether an employee who is injured as a result of the intentional conduct of a co-employee is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) ( Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.5) from maintaining a common law action against his employer; (2) whether an employee who is injured as a result of the intentional conduct of a co-employee acting within the scope of his employment may maintain a common law action against that co-employee; and (3) whether counts III through V of the complaint adequately state a cause of action against Marcolini for false imprisonment, false arrest, and malicious prosecution.

We first consider whether, assuming counts II through V state a cause of action against Marshall Field, such counts are nevertheless barred by the exclusivity clauses of the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.). The Workers' Compensation Act is designed to provide financial protection to workers for accidental injuries arising out of and in the course of employment. (See Pathfinder Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1976), 62 Ill.2d 556, 343 N.E.2d 913.) Accordingly, the Act imposes liability without fault upon the employer and, in return, prohibits common law suits by employees against the employer. The exclusive remedy provision "is part of the quid pro quo in which the sacrifices and gains of employees and employers are to some extent put in balance, for, while the employer assumes a new liability without fault, he is relieved of the prospect of large damage verdicts." (2A A. Larson, Law of Workmen's Compensation § 65.11 (1988).) Section 5(a) of the Act states:

"No common law or statutory right to recover damages from the employer * * * or the agents or employees of * * * [the employer] for injury or death sustained by any employee while engaged in the line of his duty as such employee, other than the compensation herein provided, is available to any employee who is covered by the provisions of this Act, * * *." (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.5(a).)

Section 11 of the Act also states:

"The compensation herein provided, together with the provisions of this Act, shall be the measure of the responsibility of any employer * * * for accidental injuries sustained by any employee arising out of and in the course of the employment according to the provisions of this Act * * *." (Ill.Rev.Stat.1987, ch. 48, par. 138.11.)

These sections bar an employee from bringing a common law cause of action against his or her employer unless the employee-plaintiff proves: (1) that the injury was not accidental; (2) that the injury did not arise from his or her employment; (3) that the injury was not received during the course of employment; or (4) that the injury was not compensable under the Act. Collier v. Wagner Castings Co. (1980), 81 Ill.2d 229, 237, 41 Ill.Dec. 776, 408 N.E.2d 198.

The plaintiff does not challenge that his injuries arose out of and in the course of his employment. He does claim, however, that the first and fourth exceptions to the exclusivity rule apply here. The plaintiff first contends that he is not barred from bringing a common law cause of action against Marshall Field because his injuries were not "accidental" within the meaning of the Act. This court has determined that the term "accidental" in the Act is not " 'a technical legal term but encompasses anything that happens without design or an event which is unforeseen by the person to whom it happens.' " (Pathfinder Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1976), 62 Ill.2d 556, 563, 343 N.E.2d 913, quoting International Harvester Co. v. Industrial Comm'n (1973), 56 Ill.2d 84, 88, 305 N.E.2d 529.) Thus, injuries inflicted intentionally upon an employee by a co-employee are "accidental" within the meaning of the Act, since such injuries are unexpected and unforeseeable from the injured employee's point of view. (See Collier v. Wagner Castings Co. (1980), 81 Ill.2d 229, 238, 41 Ill.Dec. 776, 408 N.E.2d 198.) Such injuries are also accidental from the employer's point of view, at least where the employer did not direct or expressly authorize the co-employee to commit the assault. Because injuries intentionally inflicted by a co-worker are accidental from the employer's point of view, the employer has a right to consider that the injured employee's sole remedy against the employer will be under the workers' compensation statute. 2A A. Larson, Law of Workmen's Compensation § 68.21 (1988); see Collier v. Wagner Castings Co. (1980), 81 Ill.2d 229, 239, 41 Ill.Dec. 776, 408 N.E.2d 198 (employee barred by the exclusivity provisions of the Act from suing his employer for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, based upon the company nurse's failure to provide medical assistance to the employee after he suffered a heart attack, where the employer did not direct, encourage or commit an intentional tort).

The exclusivity provisions will not bar a common law cause of action against an employer, however, for injuries which the employer or its alter ego intentionally inflicts upon an employee or which were commanded or expressly authorized by the employer. (2A A. Larson, Law of Workmen's Compensation § 68.21 (1988); see Collier v. Wagner Castings Co. (1980), 81...

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