Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District entered into a contract with the Joint Venture, for the “Primary Settling Tanks and Grit Removal Facilities” project to be carried out at the Calumet water reclamation plant. Under the contract, the Joint Venture was responsible to determine the procedures and methods for the work and furnish all temporary structures and safety equipment and was responsible for the safety of all personnel on the worksite. The contract required the Joint Venture to submit plans for the work to the District’s engineer but state that the engineer’s acceptance of the plans did not relieve the Joint Venture of its responsibility for safety, maintenance, and repairs on the project. Andrews, a Joint Venture employee, suffered severe, career-ending head injuries while working on the project. In a suit alleging construction negligence, willful and wanton construction negligence, and loss of consortium, the District alleged immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/2-109, 2-201). The Illinois Supreme Court concluded that the District was not entitled to summary judgment of immunity. The Act immunizes a local governmental entity from liability for injuries arising out of its employee’s acts or omissions while determining policy and exercising discretion. The District did not provide evidence that its employees made discretionary or policy decisions with respect to the two-ladder configuration that resulted in Andrews’s injuries. Seven witnesses testified that no District employees weighed in on worksite safety decisions. View "Andrews v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago" on Justia Law
Sienna Court Condominium Assoc. v. Champion Aluminum Corp.
The owners of units in Sienna Court Condominiums, a newly-constructed 111-residential-unit Evanston property sued, alleging that the developer, TR, sold the units with latent defects that resulted in water infiltration and other conditions that rendered the individual units and common areas unfit for habitation. The complaint alleged breach of an express warranty and breach of an implied warranty of habitability against TR, the general contractor, the architect and engineering design firms, material suppliers and several subcontractors. TR and the general contractor were bankrupt. The unit owners obtained relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay. TR and the general contractor had two separate insurance policies, each providing coverage of $1 million per occurrence with $2 million aggregate limits. Plaintiffs had recovered approximately $308,000 from TR through a warranty escrow fund required by Evanston ordinance. Subcontractors and the material suppliers asserted that they were not subject to an implied warranty of habitabililty. The circuit court denied their motion to dismiss. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, holding that a purchaser of a newly constructed home may not assert a claim for breach of an implied warranty of habitability against a subcontractor who took part in the construction of the home, where the subcontractor had no contractual relationship with the purchaser. View "Sienna Court Condominium Assoc. v. Champion Aluminum Corp." on Justia Law
Carney v. Union Pacific R.R. Co.
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
Fattah v. Bim
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
Henderson Square Condo. Ass’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC
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
Henderson Square Condo. Assoc’n v. LAB Townhomes, LLC
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