Zuber v. CTS Nat'l Corp.

Decision Date21 June 2022
Docket Number3:22-cv-517-DWD
PartiesJAMES ZUBER, Plaintiff, v. CTS NATIONAL CORPORATION, SHERWIN-WILLIAMS COMPANY, and ERNEST BRUCE BENEFIEL, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Illinois

JAMES ZUBER, Plaintiff,
v.

CTS NATIONAL CORPORATION, SHERWIN-WILLIAMS COMPANY, and ERNEST BRUCE BENEFIEL, Defendants.

No. 3:22-cv-517-DWD

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 21, 2022


MEMORANDUM & ORDER

DAVID W. DUGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Plaintiff James Zuber was injured while operating a tractor-trailer in the course of his employment by Defendants CTS National Corporation ("CTS") and Sherwin-Williams Company ("Sherwin-Williams").[1] Defendant Ernest Bruce Benefiel was employed as Safety Coordinator for Sherwin-Williams "and/or" CTS at the time. (Doc. 1-2 at 2). Zuber filed this common law tort action against Defendants in Illinois state court on January 27, 2022. On March 14, 2022, Defendants removed the action to this Court. (Doc. 1). Now before the Court is Zuber7s motion to remand this action to state court. (Doc. 14). Defendants have responded to the motion (Doc. 17), and it is ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the motion is due to be granted.

According to the complaint, Zuber was employed as a tractor-trailer operator and

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transported Sherwin-Williams products from Effingham, Illinois to other locations throughout the country. (Doc. 1-2 at 2-3). On February 8, 2020, Zuber was transporting Quick Dry Enamel from Effingham to North Dakota. According to the product's Material Safety Data Sheet, workers exposed to Quick Dry Enamel should wear goggles and a respiratory device to avoid the adverse health effects caused by overexposure to the product. After stopping for a delivery at a Sherwin-Williams store, Zuber noticed that the Quick Dry Enamel was leaking inside his trailer. Zuber informed Defendants of the leak. After failing to find a professional paint contractor remediator to clean the leaking Quick Dry Enamel, Benefiel told Zuber to clean it up himself. Zuber had no training in hazardous material clean up or safety and lacked personal protection equipment. But he purchased some gloves and goggles and cleaned up the spill. As a result of his exposure to the Quick Dry Enamel, Zuber experienced nausea and dizziness and suffered serious injuries. Zuber claims that Defendants acted negligently, willfully and wantonly, and intentionally when they ordered him to clean up the spill without adequate equipment and training, thereby causing his injuries.

In their notice of removal, Defendants point out that the parties would be completely diverse under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, were it not for Benefiel, who is a citizen of Illinois. They also argue that Benefiel was fraudulently joined for the sole purpose of defeating diversity. According to Defendants, Benefiel's joinder was improper because the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act ("IWCA") preempts any claim Zuber might have against him. Zuber's motion to remand primarily argues that Defendants have not met their burden to prove that Zuber cannot establish a cause of action against Benefiel-the

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standard to show fraudulent joinder. Zuber also argues that his claims arise under the IWCA and are therefore nonremovable under 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c). The Court finds this latter argument dispositive of the motion to remand.

Any civil action "arising under the workmen's compensation laws of [a] State may not be removed to any district court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1445(c). A claim arises under a worker's compensation law if it "presents a dispute about the validity, construction, or effect of the law." Spearman v. Exxon Coal USA, Inc., 16 F.3d 722, 725-26 (7th Cir. 1994). In other words, to trigger § 1445(c), "the state's workers' compensation laws must...

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