Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Trial Court’s Finding Regarding Borrowed Employee Status; Hastings v. Jefco Equipment Co., Inc.

Deirdre Hastings was an ironworker employed by Area Erectors Inc.On March 5, 2007, Hastings was unloading steel beams from the bed of a flatbed truck. The steel beams were hooked to a 90-ton hydraulic crane, which would move the steel onto the building that was being constructed. 

The crane was rented from the defendant Jefco Equipment Co. The crane was being operated by Greg Windbiel, who performed the work for Jefco, although he was  employed by Area. 

As the beam was being guided by Hastings, the beam struck her on the chest, knocking her to the ground with the beam falling on her right leg, breaking it.

In the lawsuit that followed, Hastings alleged that Jefco was liable for her injuries. Jefco moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial judge stating that Windbiel was a borrowed employee of Area making Area, not Jefco, liable for Windbiel’s actions. Secondly, the trial judge stated that Area was liable because of the legal principle of premises liability.  From that order, Hastings appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court.

The appellate court found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether Windbiel was a borrowed employee for purposes of employer liability.

The appellate court looked at six factors in Windbiel’s employment with Area:

  1. The right of Area to discharge Windbiel or of Jefco to substitute an employee;
  2. The manner in which the performance of Windbiel’s duties were directed;
  3. The terms of the contract between Jefco and Area;
  4. The method by which Windbiel was paid;
  5. The duration of employment; and
  6. The level of skill that the employment required.

Area was not free to fire Windbiel. Area rented the crane from Jefco, and Jefco made certain that if Area had been unhappy with Windbiel’s performance,  it could have hired another company in order to get a new crane operator.  That fact alone would defeat a borrowed employee status.

Second, the court found that Windbiel was following instructions from Jefco. This too defeated the argument against borrowed employee status. 

The contract in question between Area and Jefco specified that Windbiel was under Area’s “exclusive jurisdiction, supervision and control.”  Although this contract language was not considered conclusive, it argued for borrowed employee status.

Since Jefco received the money for the crane work and paid Windbiel with benefits, the argument would be against borrowed employee status. Lastly, Windbiel was a highly skilled and short-term employee, which would tend to mean that he was less likely to be a borrowed employee. Long-term employment or short-term employment with a low level of training required are better indicators of borrowed employee status.

Although the appellate court concluded it was not certain as to whether Windbiel was a borrowed employee, it did state emphatically that summary judgment against the plaintiff was inappropriate. There was ample evidence that Windbiel never left the employment of Jefco, making him an employee of Jefco rather than of Area.For those reasons, the decision made by the trial court granting summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded back to the trial court for further disposition.

Deirdre Hastings v. Jefco Equipment Co., Inc., 2013 IL App. (1st) 121568-U. 

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Belmont Harbor), Chicago (Chinatown), Chicago (Pilsen), Algonquin, Berwyn, Chicago Ridge, Crystal Lake, Forest Park, Glenview, Gurnee, Joliet, LaGrange Park and Orland Park, Ill.

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