The First District Appellate Court recently affirmed an important victory for our client in the area of direct participant liability in the case of Linsner v. Exelon Energy Delivery and Exelon Corporation. The plaintiff was an employee of Commonwealth Edison and was injured while working on maintenance of substation equipment in Chicago. The plaintiff was working in an area that had been de-energized but was adjacent to electrical equipment that was still energized. His hand came into contact with the energized equipment and he suffered a serious burn injury. The plaintiff filed suit against Commonwealth Edison’s parent company, Exelon and another Exelon related company, Exelon Energy Delivery, contending that the parent corporations directly participated in the activities of their subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, by having input into safety rules for Commonwealth Edison that proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The Illinois Supreme Court, in Forsythe v. Clark, 224 Ill.2d 274 (2007) had recently ruled that “Direct Participation” was a viable cause of action for a plaintiff against a parent company and the plaintiff’s case was one of the first suits filed under that theory.
After completing discovery, Johnson & Bell filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that the plaintiff had failed to establish any evidence that Exelon or Exelon Energy Delivery exerted any direct control over Commonwealth safety procedures beyond what would be customary for a parent corporation. Moreover, the plaintiff failed to establish that there was any proximate cause linked to the plaintiff’s accident. Judge Marcia Maras in the Cook County Law Division granted summary judgment on behalf of Exelon and Exelon Energy Delivery on February 21, 2011. The plaintiff appealed and on March 28, 2012, the decision of the trial court was affirmed. The case has significant ramifications as it is believed to be one of the first cases resolved and appealed on the direct participation theory in the First District. John Bell represented Exelon and Exelon Energy delivery.