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Do I have a Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Civil Claim? The Appellate Court Weighs In

In Peng v. Nardi, 2018 IL App (1st) 170155, the first district appellate court addressed the question whether an employee who is injured when commuting to and/or from work has a civil claim or a workers’ compensation claim. The answer depends on the facts.  This decision provides an excellent summary of the law that will assist practitioners in understanding the scope of this oft disputed inquiry.

In Peng, a co-employee transported the plaintiff home from work in a company van. The employer paid this co-employee $600.00 a month (and fuel costs) to transport other co-employees to and from work. The co-employee could only use the van to transport other co-employees, and all these co-employees were not paid during travel. The appellate court found, inter alia, that based upon these facts, plaintiff could not maintain a civil action. Rather, the plaintiff could only maintain a Workers’ Compensation action.

In short, the appellate court determined that the plaintiff “focuses on irrelevant facts when she points out that her employer did not require her to live in the Chinatown or Bridgeview neighborhoods and she could choose any means she wanted to commute to work from Chicago to Hoffman Estates. It makes no difference that [plaintiff] was not at her job site, not performing any restaurant tasks, and not being compensated for her time when she was being chauffeured to the restaurant by her co-employee in an employer controlled van. The authority discussed above indicates that none of these details affects [plaintiff’s] right to compensation through the workers’ compensation system. The case law and treatise indicate the dispositive facts for purposes of compensation are that the vehicle was an employer controlled conveyance for employee travel. It is undisputed that [the employer] provided the van and driver and thus had control over the conditions of [plaintiff’s] commute. Therefore, [the employer] is liable for [plaintiff’s] job-related injury through the workers’ compensation system and not a civil suit. It follows that [the co-employee] is also immune from [plaintiff’s] common law negligence claim because he was acting within the scope of his employment when his alleged negligence caused the collision which injured [plaintiff].”

Several other issues were addressed in this opinion that will further assist practitioners in understanding the interplay between the workers’ compensation system and civil actions.

The full decision can be found at: