Articles Posted in Construction Law

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In 2006, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) invited contractors to bid on the purchase and removal of three abandoned railroad bridges that spanned Chicago streets. Happ’s, a scrap contractor, had worked railroads for 25 years recycling steel and railroad ties. Carney (dba Chicago Explosive) had a 20-year business relationship with Happ; the two entered “a handshake agreement” concerning the bid. UP accepted Happ’s bid, unaware of the agreement between Happ’s and Carney. Removal of the first bridge proceeded without incident. During the demolition of the larger Polk Street Bridge, a crossbeam snapped. The west girder, which was not secured or supported, fell. Plaintiff, standing north of the bridge on a gravel-covered steel plate, slid forward under the falling girder. Plaintiff’s legs were severed below his knees. Plaintiff sued UP, alleging negligence in failing to discover and disclose to Happ’s or plaintiff the presence of the steel plate and in hiring Happ’s. The trial court granted UP summary judgment. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment. UP owed plaintiff no duty. There was nothing in the contract indicating that UP retained control such that Happ’s was not entirely free to do the work in its own way, nor was UP’s conduct inconsistent with the agreement. Plaintiff was an employee of Carney, not a “bystander.” UP did not build the bridge, did not possess the plans for the bridge, did not use the bridge, and had no reason to know that the steel floor plate extended several feet into the roadbed, precluding plaintiff’s premises liability claim. View "Carney v. Union Pacific R.R. Co." on Justia Law

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In 2005, Masterklad built a house in Glenview, including a brick patio that extended off the rear of the house. Because the ground underneath the patio sloped down, dirt and gravel were placed underneath it to support the bricks and make them level with the house's rear entrance. A retaining wall was built to contain the fill. In 2007, the house was sold by Masterklad to a Lubeck for $1,710,000. In the contract Lubeck “knowingly, voluntarily, fully and forever,” waived the implied warranty of habitability in exchange for an express warranty provided by Masterklad, with a one-year term. In 2010, Lubeck sold the house to Fattah, for $1,050,000, with a document stating that the house was being sold “as is” and that the seller made no representations or warranty regarding its condition. In 2011, parts of the retaining wall around the rear patio gave way and part of the patio collapsed. The owner sued. The circuit court found that the patio wall had given way due to latent defects in its construction, but that plaintiff could not recover because Masterklad had executed a valid, enforceable waiver of the implied warranty of habitability with Lubeck. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The implied warranty of habitability may not be extended to a second purchaser of a house when a valid, bargained-for waiver of the warranty has been executed between the builder-vendor and the first purchaser. View "Fattah v. Bim" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Henderson Square Condominium Association sued, alleging: breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the Chicago Municipal Code’s prohibition against misrepresenting material facts in marketing and selling real estate, and breach of a fiduciary duty. The defendants were developers that entered into a contract with the city for a mixed use project, the Lincoln-Belmont-Ashland Redevelopment Project. Sales in the project had begun in 1996. The trial court dismissed, finding that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that counts were time-barred under the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/13-214). The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. A condominium association generally has standing to pursue claims that affect the unit owners or the common elements. A question of fact remains as to whether defendants’ failure to speak about construction deficiencies or to adequately fund reserves, coupled with earlier alleged misrepresentations, amounted to fraudulent concealment for purposes of exceptions to the limitation and repose periods. It is possible that minor repairs, along with the limited nature of water infiltration, reasonably delayed plaintiffs’ hiring of professional contractors to open the wall and discover latent defects. The date when plaintiffs reasonably should have known that an injury occurred and that it was wrongfully caused was a question of fact. View "Henderson Square Condo. Ass'n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Henderson Square Condominium Association sued the developers, alleging: breach of the implied warranty of habitability, fraud, negligence, breach of the Chicago Municipal Code’s prohibition against misrepresenting material facts in the course of marketing and selling real estate. The court dismissed with prejudice, finding that plaintiffs failed to adequately plead the Chicago Municipal Code violation and breach of fiduciary duty and that those counts were time-barred. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of those counts and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The claims at issue are construction-related and governed by the limitation and repose of section 13-214 of the Code of Civil Procedure, but the fraud exception applied and issues of material fact remained concerning misrepresentations or actions that could support a finding of fraudulent concealment. The defendants were alleged to be “more than silent” regarding insulation and funding of the reserves. The Municipal Code allows private parties to seek damages under its provisions and there were allegations that defendants had a fiduciary duty to budget for reasonable reserves, given allegedly known latent defects. View "Henderson Square Condo. Assoc'n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC" on Justia Law

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Neumann Homes was the developer of two Antioch subdivisions. The Village entered into infrastructure agreements with Neumann to make public improvements in the subdivisions; Neumann provided four substantially identical surety bonds issued by Fidelity, totaling $18,128,827. The bonds did not contain specific “payment bond” language. A payment bond generally provides that if the contractor does not pay its subcontractors and material suppliers, the surety will pay them. In contrast, a “completion bond” or “performance bond” provides that if the contractor does not complete a project, the surety will pay for its completion. Lake County Grading (plaintiff) and Neumann entered into agreements for plaintiff to provide labor and materials for the improvements. Plaintiff completed the work, but was not paid in full. Neumann defaulted on its contract with the Village and declared bankruptcy. Plaintiff served Neumann and the Village with notices of a lien claim and ultimately filed suit, alleging breach of contract because the surety bonds did not contain language guaranteeing payment to subcontractors compliant with the first paragraph of section 1 of the Bond Act, 30 ILCS 550/1, and that it became a third-party beneficiary of the contracts between the Village and Neumann because the Act’s requirements are read into every public works contract for the benefit of subcontractors. The circuit court entered summary judgment on those counts. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that the bonds were sufficient and did not violate the Act, so that the Village did not breach any contractual obligation. View "Lake Cnty. Grading Co. v. Vill. of Antioch" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Department of Labor sent Jack’s Roofing a notice of investigation of possible violation of the Employee Classification Act, 820 ILCS 185/3.25 by misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Jack’s provided the Department with requested information. Preliminary determination found misclassification of 10 individuals for eight to 160 days and calculated a potential penalty of $1,683,000. The Department requested a response within 30 days for consideration before final determination. Less than a month later, the Department sent notice of a second investigation Jack's sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that the Act is unconstitutional as violating: the special legislation clause of the Illinois Constitution because it subjects the construction industry to more stringent employment standards than other industries; the due process clauses of the U.S. and Illinois Constitutions because it does not provide an opportunity to be heard and is impermissibly vague; the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against bills of attainder because it is a legislative act that inflicts punishment without a judicial trial; and the equal protection clauses of both constitutions because no other industry is subjected to the same standards when seeking to hire independent contractors. On remand, the court denied relief, finding the Act valid and enforceable. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed in part, rejecting facial constitutional challenges. A procedural due process challenge to enforcement provisions has been rendered moot by the recent amendments to the Act, which must be applied to plaintiffs in the future. The court also affirmed that section 10 of the Act is not unconstitutionally vague. Remaining constitutional challenges to the Act were forfeited. View "Bartlow v. Costigan" on Justia Law

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In 1998 the Gillespie School District hired Wight under for services preliminary to the actual designing and construction of a new elementary school building. Wight agreed to perform a “site mine investigation.” Wight hired Hanson Engineers to assess the potential for coal mine subsidence. A physical engineer at Hanson sent a letter to Wight, noting recorded subsidence events, including five to six events since 1979, affecting more than 40 structures in the area. The letter stated: “No one can predict when or if the land above the roof-and-pillar mine will subside… The owner should consider the fact that there is no economically feasible corrective action… to guarantee against future subsidence… it can be intuitively concluded that there is a relatively high risk of subsidence in the Benld/Gillespie area. The letter was not attached to the report, which noted some of its highlights. The school was built and occupied, but in 2009 was severely damaged as the result of subsidence and was condemned. The District sued Wight, alleging professional negligence, breach of implied warranty, and fraudulent misrepresentation by concealment of material fact. The court entered summary judgment in favor of Wight, based on statutes of limitations applicable to the claims. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, noting that it was expressing no opinion concerning the merits of various claims. View "Gillespie Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 7 v. Wight & Co." on Justia Law

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In 2003, a stampede at a Chicago nightclub killed 21 people and injured 50 others. Security guards had released pepper spray to break up a fight on the dance floor, and a rush to the exit crushed these victims. The operators of a restaurant and bar in the building were acquitted on charges of involuntary manslaughter. They were held in indirect criminal contempt for willful violation of court orders concerning building code violations, and received two-year prison sentences. Those orders prohibited occupancy of a suspended mezzanine and occupancy of the second floor of the building. The appellate court ruled that the original orders were not clear and reversed the finding of indirect criminal contempt in 2011. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed and remanded for consideration of other issues, holding that the jury could have found the defendants guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubtView "People v. Le Mirage, Inc." on Justia Law

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Patrick Engineering signed a 2007 contract with the City of Naperville for work on a stormwater management system. Some work was done and some payments were made, but the parties fell into a dispute over “additional services.” Patrick terminated the agreement and sued Naperville, seeking $436,392. The agreement provided that if Naperville made a verbal request for additional services, the engineers were required to confirm that request in writing and were not obligated to perform the changes until authorized in writing. This procedure was not followed; equitable estoppel became the crux of the case. The trial court dismissed. The appellate court reversed. The city did not appeal with respect to claims of quantum meruit and under the Illinois Local Government Prompt Payment Act, which remain pending in the trial court. The supreme court reversed with respect to other claims and reinstated the dismissals. While equitable estoppel may apply against municipalities in extraordinary and compelling circumstances, Illinois courts have never held that apparent authority may be applied against municipalities. To recover in equitable estoppel, plaintiff must allege specific facts showing that municipal officials possessed actual, rather than apparent, authority on which plaintiff reasonably relied. View "Patrick Eng'g v. City of Naperville" on Justia Law