Supreme Court Summaries


Opinions filed September 20, 2012

 

 

Patrick Engineering, Inc. v. City of Naperville, 2012 IL 113148

Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (2d) 100695.

 

      JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

 

      This Du Page County contract litigation is at the pleading stage. No trial has occurred.

      Patrick Engineering, Inc., 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” allegedly performed, for which the City refused to pay. Plaintiff engineering company terminated the agreement and sued the City, initially seeking $436,392.

      The formal agreement provided that if the City 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 the City authorized them in writing. This procedure was not followed as to the services at issue here. After the plaintiff began amending its complaint, equitable estoppel became the crux of its case. Eventually, the circuit court dismissed the cause, and plaintiff appealed. The appellate court reversed, and the City appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. The appellate court’s reversals of the circuit court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s claim for recovery in quantum meruit as an alternative to breach of contract and of its claim under the Illinois Local Government Prompt Payment Act were not appealed by the City and remain pending in the circuit court. They are not at issue here. In reversing the dismissals in question here and thereby holding that certain complaint counts could proceed, the appellate court held that plaintiff had alleged adequate facts, and that the validity of those allegations should be tested in the litigation process. With this proposition, the supreme court did not agree.

      The supreme court said that, 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. One of the reasons for this disparate treatment of municipalities is protection of the public purse. 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. Therefore, the appellate court erred in its reversal of the dismissals. The supreme court said that, to bind the municipality, there must be an act by the municipality—such as legislation—or an act by an official with express authority to bind the municipality. The plaintiff did not plead any such specific facts. The circuit court dismissals which are at issue here were affirmed.

      The cause was returned to the circuit court for further proceedings.