West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. TRRS Corp.Annotate this Case
West Bend's insurance policy required that TRRS provide timely notice of a covered worker’s injury. TRRS employee Bernardino was injured in the scope of his employment. West Bend claimed that TRRS did not timely report Bernardino’s injury but paid Bernardino’s lost wages and medical expenses relating to the injury without West Bend’s knowledge or permission. West Bend sent TRRS a reservation of rights letter, stating that West Bend would not reimburse any voluntary payments they made in connection with Bernardino’s injury. Bernardino filed a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) and filed a separate negligence action against several defendants, including his employers. West Bend sought a judgment declaring that it did not have a duty to defend or indemnify TRRS then filed an emergency motion to stay the pending IWCC proceeding. Bernardino argued that West Bend had not sufficiently proved that it had issued an insurance policy covering the worksite where he was injured, precluding the circuit court from making a coverage determination.
The circuit court entered an order staying the IWCC proceedings, finding that it had "primary jurisdiction." The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court disagreed. The primary jurisdiction doctrine generally “provides that where a court has jurisdiction over a matter, it should in some instances stay the judicial proceedings pending referral of a controversy, or some portion of it, to an administrative agency.” A trial court cannot rely on that doctrine to stay IWCC proceedings.