In McQueen v. Green 2022 IL 126666, the Plaintiff was a driver who was injured after being struck by a truck. The Plaintiff McQueen sued both the driver and his employer, Pan-Oceanic. The defendant employer admitted that the defendant driver, Green, was its’ employee and was within the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred. The Plaintiff also alleged in his complaint that Pan-Oceanic was negligent for ordering Green to drive the truck immediately prior to the accident, despite being informed by Green that the trailer had been improperly loaded. At trial, an Illinois jury found in favor for the Plaintiff against the employer but also found that the defendant driver was not liable. The defendant employer appealed, arguing that the verdict was inconsistent. The defendant argued that Pan-Oceanic could not be held liable for the Plaintiff’s damages if their employee was not found liable. The appelate court agreed and over-turned the jury’s verdict.
The Plaintiff then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, who then issued their opinion on April 22 of this year that it is “settled law” that a plaintiff may plead and prove multiple causes of action and that, so long as there is a good-faith factual basis for a plaintiff’s claim of direct negligence against an employer, the plaintiff is allowed to pursue that claim in addition to a claim of vicarious liability against the employee. The Supreme Court held that the verdicts were not inconsistent because they involve two (2) theories of negligence. First, that the Plaintiff alleged that the employee/driver drove the truck negligently when he allowed the trailer to swing and hit the Plaintiff’s vehicle. And second, the Plaintiff alleged that the employer was negligent because they new that the trailer had been loaded improperly and knew it was dangerous, yet still order their driver to get on the highway and bring the trailor back. The Supreme Court reinstated the jury’s verdict. This was the right decision by Illinois’ highest court. It is perfectly plausible for an employee driver to do nothing wrong, but still cause an accident because their employer ordered them to drive a truck that was inherinty dangerous for being loaded improperly. As long as separate counts are brought against the driver and the employer (which was done in this case), the Court came to the proper conclusion. This is a victory for injury victims in Illinois.