Articles Posted in Contracts

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Fee-sharing provisions in otherwise valid retainer agreements between clients and two separate law firms are not unenforceable simply because the primary service performed by one firm is the referral of the clients to the other and the agreements fail to specifically notify clients that each firm has assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. In 2007-2010, Plaintiff, a Gurnee law firm, was retained by 10 clients for representation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Plaintiff contracted with attorney Esposito for assistance in representing the clients before the Workers’ Compensation Commission. A letter of understanding was drafted by defendant, confirming that the cases had been referred to defendant by plaintiff, outlining the parties’ respective responsibilities regarding representation of the clients, and specifying that the attorney fees obtained in each case would be split between Plaintiff and Esposito. The agreements did not specifically notify the clients that the lawyers in each firm had assumed joint financial responsibility for the representation. Plaintiff’s breach of contract suit against Esposito was dismissed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s reversal, rejecting an argument that the agreements’ lack of an express statement that the attorneys assumed joint financial responsibility violated Rule 1.5(e) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and thereby rendered the agreements invalid. View "Ferris, Thompson & Zweig, Ltd. v. Esposito" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Legal Ethics

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The 2009 Video Gaming Act (230 ILCS 40/1)) legalized the use of video gaming terminals in licensed establishments, including bars, veterans’ organizations, and truck stops, and authorizes the Illinois Gaming Board to supervise all video gaming operations governed by the Act. A video gaming terminal may be placed in a licensed establishment only if the establishment has entered into a written use agreement with the licensed terminal operator. A use agreement may be assigned only from one licensed terminal operator to another. Action, an unlicensed terminal operator, executed “Exclusive Location and Video Gaming Terminal Agreements” with each of 10 establishments, stating that Action and the establishments would obtain licenses. In 2012 the parties amended their agreements by adding clauses, purportedly “necessary in order for the Agreement to comply with the [Act] and the rules and regulations," including clauses providing that Action could assign its rights and acknowledging that the agreement and the amendment “are subject to and contingent upon the [Gaming Board’s] review.” In 2012, the Board denied Action’s license application based on findings that Acton employees were associated with individuals who had been convicted of illegal gambling. Action assigned its rights under the agreements to J&J, a licensed operator. The establishments were not yet licensed. Subsequently, each of the establishments signed separate location agreements with Accel, a licensed operator. J&J and Action sued; the circuit courts ruled that the location agreements were not use agreements, but were valid contracts, and enjoined Accel from operating terminals at the establishments. The appellate court and the Illinois Supreme court held that the circuit courts lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the Board has exclusive authority over contracts for the placement of video gaming terminals. The comprehensive statutory scheme vests jurisdiction over video gaming operations with the Board; the agreements purport to control placement and operation of video gaming terminals. View "J&J Ventures Gaming, LLC v. Wild, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Gaming 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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After the 2004 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Unions and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) expired, the retiree health care benefits were the subject of an interest arbitration award. That award, which modified the retiree health care benefits, was accepted by the CTA and the Unions. Current and retired employees who had begun work with the CTA before 2001 challenged that award in a putative class action, asserting breach of contract, promissory estoppel, breach of fiduciary duty, and that the arbitration award was unenforceable under article XIII, section 5, of the Illinois Constitution, the “pension protection clause.” The circuit court ruled that the retired CTA employees had standing to challenge the modifications to their retiree health care benefits, but current CTA employees lacked standing, then dismissed for failure to state a claim. The appellate court agreed that current employees lacked standing but held that the retirees had a vested right to receive the health care benefits that were provided in the prior CBA and had stated claims for breach of that contract and for promissory estoppel. The Illinois Supreme Court held that plaintiffs who retired before the effective date of the 2007 CBA had standing; other retirees and current employees lacked standing. Dismissal of the claim for promissory estoppel against the CTA was proper; the complaint stated claims for breach of contract and under the pension protection clause. View "Matthews v. Chicago Transit Auth." on Justia Law

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Husband and wife (who did not speak English) entered into a written one-year lease, took possession of the apartment, and tendered the security deposit and first month’s rent. Ten days into the lease, they received “an official 30 days notice” of eviction, stating that “[c]onstruction begins June 10,” and that they did not qualify for an unspecified “new program.” Several additional efforts to force the family to move followed; their tender of rent was refused. They purportedly sought legal advice and were told that the landlord could not unilaterally terminate the lease. They reported feeling discriminated against and harassed; they were confused, depressed, and anxious. Demolition began while the family was occupying the apartment. Husband allegedly told wife that he could not tolerate the situation any longer. The following day, he committed suicide in the apartment. Wife sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, wrongful eviction, breach of contract; under the Wrongful Death Act; and under the survival statute. The trial court dismissed the wrongful death and related survival actions, finding that “wrongful death via suicide” is not cognizable in Illinois. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed. Despite an ostensible connection between severe emotional distress and suicide, suicide may result from a complex combination of factors. It is “rare” that suicide would not break the chain of causation and bar a wrongful death action, even where the plaintiff alleges the defendant inflicted severe emotional distress. Husband’s suicide was not a reasonably foreseeable result of defendant’s alleged conduct in breaking the lease and pressuring the family to vacate. View "Turcios v. DeBruler Co." 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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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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Defendant moved to dismiss a breach of contract suit. Plaintiff e-filed a response to the motions. There was no objection. The circuit court dismissed; plaintiff e-filed a motion to reconsider. Defendant asserted that e-filing the motion was improper. The trial court denied the motion on the merits without comment on the manner of filing. Plaintiff e-filed its notice of appeal. The appellate court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, finding that plaintiff improperly e-filed its motion to reconsider in violation of local rule 5.03 so that the motion was ineffective to toll the time for filing notice of appeal and that plaintiff also violated the rule by e-filing notice of appeal. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The violation of the rule was brought to the court’s attention at the hearing on the motion to reconsider. Defendants did not claim prejudice and the court chose to consider plaintiff’s motion on its merits, which it had discretion to do. Where a deficiency in the notice of appeal is one of form only and not of substance, the appellate court is not deprived of jurisdiction; in this case, the notice of appeal, although improperly filed, was sufficient to confer jurisdiction, particularly because a backup paper copy was required to be maintained in a parallel manual court file. Defendants were advised of the nature of the appeal and have not argued that they suffered any prejudice.View "VC&M, Ltd. v. Andrews" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts

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Pielet Brothers Scrap Iron and Metal, was founded Arthur Pielet and his brothers shortly after World War II. Arthur sold his interest to his sons in 1986 through an agreement providing for a lifetime payment to him of a “consulting” fee, and, on his death, for a lifetime fee payment to his wife, Dorothy. The agreement was binding on successors and assigns. In 1994, the then- successor company, P.B.S., dissolved, but payments to Arthur continued until 1998, when its successor, MM, had financial difficulties. It filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Litigation began. The trial court awarded Dorothy almost $2 million. In the appellate court, P.B.S. argued the traditional rule that a cause of action that accrued (1998) after dissolution (1994) cannot be brought against a dissolved corporation. The appellate court rejected the argument, holding that Dorothy’s claim could survive, but remanded for determination of whether the companies could be relieved of liability for the fee under a theory of novation. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the claim of breach of contract against P.B.S. could not survive the corporate dissolution. The issue of novation is relevant as to two other successor corporations and required remand. View "Pielet v. Pielet" 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