Chicago income member Jeff Kehl recently published an article for CLM Magazine titled, “Discovering New Protections.” Jeff breaks down Burdess v. Cottrell, Inc., a case of first impression Jeff successfully argued before the Illinois Appellate Court. The case examined whether a workers’ compensation lienholder is subject to written discovery from a party in an existing lawsuit.
In Burdess, the insurance carrier intervened in a civil action brought by Burdess for injuries he sustained in the course of his employment. The insurance carrier’s petition to intervene only sought to require the parties to include the carrier in all notices and to have the parties recognize and protect the carrier’s workers’ compensation lien. Shortly after the court granted the insurance carrier’s petition, Burdess issued interrogatories and a very lengthy request for production to the carrier seeking the contents of 3,300 workers’ compensation claim files.
Jeff provides an in-depth analysis of Section 5(b) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, noting that “[d]espite the clear language of the statute limiting the role of an employer/carrier as an intervenor, litigants and courts have construed the status of a workers’ compensation intervenor as a party for all purposes, including discovery.” Jeff argued that workers’ compensation carriers are not subject to the Supreme Court rules regarding interrogatories and document production requests.
The second issue at hand, Jeff examines is the proportionality of record subpoenas scope. Discovery must be proportional to the expected benefits derived from the discovery.
The landmark case serves as a valuable precedent for employers and carriers in third-party civil suits brought by employees.