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Illinois Attorneys Attain Summary Judgment on Behalf of Consulting Company Client

Chicago attorneys Jason E. Hunter and Inessa S. Holly recently obtained summary judgment in a matter brought on behalf of a minor plaintiff. The plaintiff alleged she was sexually assaulted by an employee who worked at the same facility as our client, a consulting company in Kendall County, Illinois.

Plaintiff, a 13-year-old whose family boarded a horse at co-defendant’s equestrian facility, alleged she was was repeatedly assaulted by a farmhand while performing chores at the equestrian facility. Plaintiff asserted claims for the following: negligence pursuant to Restatement of Torts, Second; negligent, willful and wanton supervision, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff contended that because of the common ownership and management, defendants’ physical proximity to the location of the assaults, as well as a unified payroll platform for the employees of both companies, a question of fact existed as to which entity was responsible for the control and supervision of the assailant.

In this matter there was partial common ownership and management between the defendant businesses as our consulting company client maintained its administrative offices at the subject property, and housed equestrian amenities and offices for the co-defendant. In response to the plaintiff, our defense attorneys argued that, despite the shared location of the offices and issuance of payroll benefits to the assailant, our client was a separate and distinct organizational entity which provided no direct services to the co-defendant’s equestrian business.

Our attorneys reasoned that at no time did the defendant ever employ the assailant or oversee his work as a farmhand in relation to defendant’s consulting business. In order for liability to attach under each of plaintiff’s theories, plaintiff must have plead facts sufficient to establish defendant had a duty to control, monitor and/or supervise the assailant’s conduct, which she failed to do.

In his detailed analysis, Judge Stephen Krentz of the Twenty-Third Judicial Circuit Court in Kendall County, Illinois agreed with counsel’s argument, and found the predominant factor was the lack of right of the defendant to control the work of the assailant. The Court specifically held that the assailant performed no work whatsoever for the defendant, and there was no articulable reason why the defendant would supervise, direct, discharge, provide materials or control any of the assailant’s actions while he was on or off the premises. The work performed by the assailant was entirely disconnected from the defendant’s business operations, and the defendant derived no benefit from any work the assailant otherwise performed on the property.

In rendering its decision, the Court held that the defendant was merely a conduit to pass through co-defendant’s payroll, tax reporting and insurance obligations to co-defendant’s employee without the necessity of duplicating those administrative procedures through two separate business entities. These factors were found sufficient to establish that no employer-employee relationship could have existed, and summary judgment was granted in favor of our client.

Jason represents corporate and individual clients in class actions, as well as those involving condominiums, construction liability, trucking/automobile litigation and catastrophic personal injury defense. He is routinely retained to represent business and commercial entities in matters involving multi-million dollar exposures.

Inessa focuses her defense litigation practice on construction negligence, personal injury, toxic tort and wrongful death claims. She defends insureds, contractors and tradesmen, as well as manufacturers and distributors in actions alleging injuries or property damage. In addition to her law practice, Inessa is Chair of the Litchfield Cavo LLP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Associate Subcommittee.