Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed January 24, 2014

 

 

Gillespie Community Unit School Dist. No. 7 v. Wight & Co., 2014 IL 115330

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (4th) 111001-U.

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

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

In March of 2009, a coal mine subsided beneath an elementary school in Benld, in Macoupin County. The school’s construction had been completed in 2002, and it was first occupied and used in August of that year. There was extensive structural damage and, within a few weeks of the subsidence event, the building was condemned.

On April 26, 2010, plaintiff Gillespie Community Unit School District No. 7 filed the fraudulent misrepresentation claim at issue here against defendant Wight & Company, with whom it had contracted in 1998 to perform a “site mine investigation” for the then-proposed school. This agreement provided that any causes of action would be deemed to have accrued, and limitation periods would begin to run, on the date of substantial completion. The trial and appellate courts found this to be the autumn of 2002, and this is not disputed here. The supreme court noted that the validity of this earlier agreement concerning limitations was not before it. The school district alleged that it would have acted differently as to whether it should go forward with the school construction project if Wight had provided it with further information pursuant to the contract. This appeal involves the question of whether the school district’s fraudulent misrepresentation claim is barred by limitations. The circuit court had awarded summary judgment to Wight and the appellate court affirmed. In its appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the school district argued that there was no statute of limitations which applied to the fraudulent misrepresentation claim.

In the limitations Article of the Code of Civil Procedure, there is a default provision which states that “all civil actions not otherwise provided for shall be commenced within 5 years next after the cause of action accrued.” Elsewhere in the Code, there is a provision which is entitled “Construction—Design management and supervision.” It provides limitations and repose periods and states, at its end, that the “limitations of this Section shall not apply to causes of action arising out of fraudulent misrepresentations or to fraudulent concealment of causes of action.” The supreme court noted that this section does not state that a fraud-based construction claim may be brought at any time. However, the school district took the position that there was no limitation period at all which was applicable to its fraudulent misrepresentation claim, while defendant Wight argued that the claim was barred by this five-year default provision, given that the cause of action accrued in 2002 and the claim was filed in 2010. The appellate court had agreed with this reasoning, as did the Supreme Court in this decision. Both held that the five-year default provision applies and rejected the theory that the fraudulent misrepresentation claim was not subject to any limitation period at all. The trial court’s award of summary judgment in favor of Wight was upheld.