Court Reverses Summary Judgment Order in Contract Case Where Questions of Fact Remained

Archon Construction Co. was hired by the defendant U.S. Shelter to install a sewer system for a development, which was a small residential subdivision in Elgin. The contract between the parties was signed on June 5, 2005 and specified the types and quantities of material to be used by Archon. 

For example, PVC piping was specified. Any additional work beyond the original scope was, according to the contract, to be completed at an agreed upon price, time and materials. The City of Elgin was to review the work done by Archon within a year after completion of the work. U.S. Shelter hired a civil engineering firm to oversee Archon’s installation of the sewer system.  This was to make sure that it met with both the contract’s specifications and the City of Elgin’s legal requirements.

After Archon completed the installation, the engineering company reported that the work was done satisfactorily and complied with the contract and Elgin’s requirements.

Archon finished work in August 2005.  The sewer was then pressure-tested and found to be in good working order.Archon was paid the majority of its fees, except for a small amount held back until Elgin approved the subdivision project as a whole.

About two years after Archon finished its installation work, Elgin reviewed the sewer system. Elgin’s engineering inspector claimed that there were cracks in a portion of the sewer piping between two manholes. Archon managers, viewing the same footage, claimed that there were no cracks in the piping.

The engineering inspector told U.S. Shelter that because of the depth of the piping and the weight involved, U.S. Shelter was required to replace the piping and joints made of PVC with iron piping. That was a specification that was not mandated by Elgin’s standards, nor was it part of the contract between Archon and U.S. Shelter. 

U.S. Shelter contracted with Archon to perform this new work. Representatives of U.S. Shelter stated that the company should not be required to pay for this work since Archon’s work was supposed to be up to Elgin’s standards.

Archon claimed that the defects were caused by ground conditions, which changed after Archon’s installation. Archon said that the change in ground conditions was not covered by the original contract and U.S. Shelter should be responsible for time and materials required to put in the new piping.

Archon completed the work and sent U.S. Shelter a bill, which it refused to pay. Archon perfected its mechanic’s lien and sued to recover the money it owed it for the replacement as well as other equitable relief. U.S. Shelter then sued the civil engineering firm in a third-party complaint. U.S. Shelter filed a motion for summary judgment as did the civil engineering firm, both of which were granted by the trial judge. Archon appealed. 

The appellate court found that genuine issues of material fact existed in the case, from the simplest, which was whether there were cracks in the sewer pipes as the Elgin inspector stated, to the more complex, such as the reason for any damage done and whether there was fault in Archon’s original work. In addition, the question remained as to whether Elgin’s requirement two years after inspection is extra work outside the scope of the original contract.

The Illinois Appellate Court found that these disputes raised material issues of fact that made summary judgment improper.  Further, since the civil engineering summary judgment was dependent entirely on a judgment in favor of U.S. Shelter, that summary judgment motion order was likewise reversed and remanded. There was one appellate court justice who dissented, stating that U.S. Shelter’s summary judgment was proper because Archon chose not to make a prima facie case, which would be adequate grounds for summary judgment. However, the majority, two to one, prevailed. The case was returned to the trial court for further disposition.

Archon Construction Company, Inc. v. U.S. Shelter, LLC, et al., 2013 IL App. (1st) 121632-U (June 4, 2013).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling construction contract disputes, business litigation matters and jury trials for individuals and businesses for more than 37 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Evanston, Elmhurst, Elgin, Long Grove, Glenview, Winnetka, Chicago (Wicker Park), Chicago (Lincoln Square), Warrenville, Westchester, Naperville, Rolling Meadows and Waukegan, Ill.

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