Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., Nos. 55811

CourtIllinois Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSIMON
Citation448 N.E.2d 866,95 Ill.2d 441
Parties, 69 Ill.Dec. 954 Elvin L. ROBERTSON, Appellee, v. The TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant.
Decision Date22 April 1983
Docket Number55837,Nos. 55811

Page 866

448 N.E.2d 866
95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954
Elvin L. ROBERTSON, Appellee,
v.
The TRAVELERS INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant.
Nos. 55811, 55837.
Supreme Court of Illinois.
April 22, 1983.

[95 Ill.2d 443]

Page 867

[69 Ill.Dec. 955] Donald M. Haskell, Mitchell A. Orpett, Chicago, for defendant-appellant, Travelers Ins. Co.; Haskell & Perrin, Chicago, Dunham, Boman & Leskera, East St. Louis, of counsel.

Listeman, Bandy & Hamilton, Belleville, for plaintiff-appellee; Charles E. Hamilton, Belleville, of counsel.

SIMON, Justice.

In this case we decide whether a common law action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for allegedly outrageous conduct in the handling of a workmen's compensation claim can succeed where recovery was had on the underlying workmen's compensation action. We hold that it may not.

On June 25, 1971, the plaintiff in this action, Elvin L. Robertson, slipped and fell

Page 868

[69 Ill.Dec. 956] while at work as a carpenter for Kaskaskia Constructors, Inc. As a result of the accident he complained of pain in both knees and consulted with several doctors between the accident and the middle[95 Ill.2d 444] of 1973. Most of Robertson's medical expenses were paid by Travelers Insurance Company, Kaskaskia's insurance carrier and the defendant in this action. Travelers also sent Robertson a payment of temporary total disability benefits on March 22, 1972, which Robertson received on March 30, 1972. The law as it existed during 1972 and 1973 required claimants to file their claims for workmen's compensation within a year of the date on which they last received compensation benefits (Ill.Rev.Stat.1971, ch. 48, par. 138.6(c)(3)); in Robertson's case the limitations period was to expire on March 30, 1973.

Robertson worked sporadically during 1972 and 1973, and on March 14, 1973, he telephoned Thomas Walz, the Travelers' claim representative who had been handling his case, to inform him that he would soon enter a hospital for treatment and to inquire whether Travelers would pay the hospital bill. Walz told him that he could sign Travelers' name to the bill, and according to Walz' testimony in this action he also told Robertson that the claim was being handled by someone else and that that person would have to decide whether and how much Travelers would pay.

On March 16, 1973, Rodger Nelson, the Travelers representative then in charge of the claim, received a note from his supervisor stating a belief that Robertson's continuing symptoms were the result of a degenerative ailment rather than the accident at work. This memorandum advised Nelson to inform Robertson that Travelers would accept no further responsibility for the injury and made reference to the statute of limitations, which the supervisor mistakenly believed would expire on March 22 rather than on March 30. Nelson contacted Robertson on March 20 or 22 and asked to see him regarding the claim at Robertson's convenience. An appointment was made for March 26. On that day Nelson conducted an interview at Robertson's home, accompanied[95 Ill.2d 445] by a court reporter. A transcript of their conversation reveals that Nelson did not mention the statute of limitations, apparently because he believed it had already expired, but asked if Robertson had filed a workmen's compensation claim or hired a lawyer. Robertson told him he had done neither but was considering hiring an attorney. On March 29 Nelson wrote Robertson a letter informing him that Travelers would not pay any further medical or compensation benefits. The letter did not mention the statute of limitations, although an internal memorandum written by Nelson a week later expressed his belief as well as that of his supervisor and a claims attorney for Travelers that because of the statute of limitations the insurance company was "home free." Robertson received Nelson's letter on April 2 and immediately hired an attorney, who filed a workmen's compensation claim that day.

Travelers defended the compensation claim on statute of limitations grounds. An arbitrator for the Industrial Commission ruled that the claim had not been timely filed and denied it. The Industrial Commission overruled the arbitrator's decision, concluding that Travelers' conduct estopped it to assert the statute of limitations, and entered an award for temporary disability and medical expenses incurred. The circuit court of St. Clair County confirmed the award, and this court affirmed in a divided opinion. (Kaskaskia Constructors v. Industrial Com. (1975), 61 Ill.2d 532, 337 N.E.2d 713.) The mandate was issued November 21, 1975, and Travelers paid the judgment, with interest, shortly thereafter. In the meantime Robertson underwent surgery at least once in 1973, and did not work. He found it necessary to borrow money from relatives and from the volunteer fire department of which he was a member, and he sought and received public aid.

On March 28, 1975, while the workmen's compensation case was pending in this court, Robertson filed a [95 Ill.2d 446] complaint against Travelers and Kaskaskia Constructors in the circuit court of St. Clair County seeking recovery for the tort of "outrage." The complaint alleged that Travelers' handling

Page 869

[69 Ill.Dec. 957] of his compensation claim was maliciously deceptive and resulted in severe emotional distress, as the financial strain to which he was subjected humiliated him and left him nervous and forgetful. The complaint was amended to include only Travelers as a defendant and did not go to trial until 1979. The jury found for Robertson, awarding him compensatory damages of $150,000 and punitive damages of $2 million. The appellate court affirmed the finding of liability but reversed the award of punitive damages and remanded for a new trial as to compensatory damages. (100 Ill.App.3d 845, 56 Ill.Dec. 222, 427 N.E.2d 302.) Appeals by both parties followed and were consolidated by this court.

Travelers raised several threshold issues in a post-trial motion in the trial court concerning the propriety of bringing an action for severe emotional distress. One of its contentions was that section 19(k) of the Workmen's Compensation Act (Ill.Rev.Stat.1973, ch. 48, par. 138.19(k)), which was in effect throughout this litigation, was intended to be the exclusive remedy for...

To continue reading

Request your trial
63 practice notes
  • DeOliveira v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. 17132
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 3 Mayo 2005
    ...in enacting a system of compensation in place of common law remedies, certainly wished to avoid." Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 451, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 A review of the legislative history of the provisions of the act addressing delayed payments evinces no......
  • West v. Western Cas. and Sur. Co., No. 87-1938
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 23 Junio 1988
    ...any employee who is covered by the provisions of this Act.... Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 48, para. 138.5(a). In Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 (Ill.1983), the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted this statute to bar an action against an insurance compan......
  • Kuykendall v. Gulfstream Aerospace Tech., No. 97,036.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • 17 Diciembre 2002
    ...320 S.E.2d 368, 370 (1984); Hormann v. New Hampshire Ins. Co., 236 Kan. 190, 689 P.2d 837, 843 (1984); Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 958, 448 N.E.2d 866 (1983); Taylor v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty, 420 So.2d 564-65 (Miss.1982); Meyers v. Wester......
  • Braye v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., ARCHER-DANIELS-MIDLAND
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 6 Febrero 1997
    ...by an employee for a work-related injury. Doyle, 101 Ill.2d at 10, 77 Ill.Dec. 759, 461 N.E.2d 382; Robertson v. Travelers Insurance Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 (1983). As such, an employer's potential for tort liability exists unless and until the defense of the Wor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
63 cases
  • DeOliveira v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. 17132
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 3 Mayo 2005
    ...in enacting a system of compensation in place of common law remedies, certainly wished to avoid." Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 451, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 A review of the legislative history of the provisions of the act addressing delayed payments evinces no......
  • West v. Western Cas. and Sur. Co., No. 87-1938
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 23 Junio 1988
    ...any employee who is covered by the provisions of this Act.... Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 48, para. 138.5(a). In Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 (Ill.1983), the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted this statute to bar an action against an insurance compan......
  • Kuykendall v. Gulfstream Aerospace Tech., No. 97,036.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oklahoma
    • 17 Diciembre 2002
    ...320 S.E.2d 368, 370 (1984); Hormann v. New Hampshire Ins. Co., 236 Kan. 190, 689 P.2d 837, 843 (1984); Robertson v. Travelers Ins. Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 958, 448 N.E.2d 866 (1983); Taylor v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty, 420 So.2d 564-65 (Miss.1982); Meyers v. Wester......
  • Braye v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., ARCHER-DANIELS-MIDLAND
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 6 Febrero 1997
    ...by an employee for a work-related injury. Doyle, 101 Ill.2d at 10, 77 Ill.Dec. 759, 461 N.E.2d 382; Robertson v. Travelers Insurance Co., 95 Ill.2d 441, 69 Ill.Dec. 954, 448 N.E.2d 866 (1983). As such, an employer's potential for tort liability exists unless and until the defense of the Wor......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT