The Illinois Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s petition for leave to appeal thereby affirming the Appellate Court decision affirming summary judgment in favor of Harris Industries, Inc. holding that a company which performs safety inspections for the employer of an injured worker is immune from civil liability under Section 5(a) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

A negligence lawsuit was filed by Brenda Mockbee against Harris Industries, Inc. alleging that she was severely and permanently disabled after she fell into an unguarded manlift opening at a Quaker Oats plant and was crushed by the lift. Harris Industries, Inc., represented by Franco Moroney Buenik, performed inspections of the manlift.

Harris asserted that its inspections were subject to civil immunity. Following the majority rule nationally, the Appellate Court of Illinois agreed, finding that a company performing safety inspections cannot be sued for its inspections. In affirming the judgment on behalf of Harris Industries, Inc., the Appellate Court held that the “Illinois legislature clearly intended to extend the immunity granted to an employer under the Compensation Act beyond the insurer of the employer for a common law action for the negligent performance of gratuitous safety inspections.”

The decision has substantial implications for the insurance, safety and brokerage communities as inspections may be performed to promote safety without fear of being sued for claims of poor inspection performance. The effect will be to promote and enhance safety in the workplace.

Mockbee v. The Humphrey Manlift Company, Inc., 973 N.E.2d 376, 2012 Ill.App. Lexis 395, 362 Ill.Dec. 276 (1st Dist. 2012).