Are Employers Whose Business Is to Maintain Structures As Rental Properties Accountable Under the Workers' Compensation Act ?
In Walsh v. Industrial Comm'n, 345 Ill. 366, 178 N.E. 82 (1931), the court defined "business" as "an employment which occupies a substantial portion of the time and attention of one engaged in it." Walsh, 345 Ill. at 369, 178 N.E. at 83; accord Iowa-Illinois Gas & Electric Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 407 Ill. 360, 366, 95 N.E.2d 482, 486 (1950) (following and quoting Walsh).
It defined "maintain" as "'the act of holding or keeping in any particular state or condition.'" Walsh, 345 Ill. at 369, 178 N.E. at 83; accord Iowa-Illinois Gas & Electric Co., 407 Ill. at 366, 95 N.E.2d at 486 (following and quoting Walsh).
Under these definitions and prior case law, the court held:
"The line of demarcation between maintaining a structure as an incident rather than as a business, and the business of maintaining a structure, is not readily defined, but we are of the opinion that a safe rule is, that where one maintains buildings or structures for profit, whether that profit be as compensation for his services or by way of rentals received, and such maintenance requires a substantial portion of his time and attention, he must be said to be engaged in the business of maintaining a structure within the contemplation of the Workmen's Compensation Act." Walsh, 345 Ill. at 370, 178 N.E. at 84.
Under these principles, the supreme court has repeatedly held employers whose principal business is to maintain structures as rental properties accountable under the Act pursuant to Workers' Compensation Act section 3.
Walsh, 345 Ill. at 370, 178 N.E. at 84 (concluding that employer who rented and maintained 10 buildings was liable under the Act when a worker was injured while repairing a roof of one of the properties);
Rogalski v. Industrial Comm'n, 342 Ill. 37, 39-40, 173 N.E. 813, 814 (1930) (concluding that employer who owned, rented, and maintained property as well as a hotel was liable under the Act where claimant was injured while assisting in remodeling one of employer's buildings);
Jacobi v. Industrial Comm'n, 342 Ill. 210, 213-14, 173 N.E. 748, 749 (1930) (owner of a three-unit apartment building who lived in one unit, but rented the remaining, was liable under the Act where a painter fell from a ladder and suffered a fractured skull);
Davis v. Industrial Comm'n, 297 Ill. 29, 30-32, 130 N.E. 333, 334 (1921) (owner of apartment buildings liable under the Act where claimant was injured while washing one of the owner's buildings);
Storrs v. Industrial Comm'n, 285 Ill. 595, 597, 121 N.E. 267, 267-68 (1918) (owner of rental properties liable under the Act where claimant was painting and calcimining one of the buildings and received a blinding injury to one of his eyes);
Johnson v. Choate, 284 Ill. 214, 220, 119 N.E. 972, 974 (1918) (concluding that the defendant, who maintained and leased a large building, was liable under the Act to a worker injured while making plumbing repairs).
Conversely, the court had held that employers who are performing maintenance work to their structures that is incidental to conducting their principal businesses are not subject to the Act pursuant to section 3. Iowa-Illinois Gas & Electric Co., 407 Ill. at 367, 95 N.E.2d at 486 (although electric and gas company leased some space in its headquarters to another tenant in the same building, the company was not liable under the Act for injuries to a window washer because rental of space was "so trifling" as not to constitute a business of the company);
T. Johnson Co. v. Industrial Comm'n, 306 Ill. 197, 201, 137 N.E. 789, 791 (1922) (a cooperage company that entered into contract for the painting of its smokestacks at its factory was not in business of maintaining a structure because its "buildings were only a necessary incident or means as a place of carrying on the business");
See also 1 T. Angerstein, Illinois Workmen's Compensation 810, at 462 (1952) ("The maintaining of buildings occupied and used incident to the conducting a business or enterprise are not within the provisions of subsection 1 of section 3").