The First District Appellate Court recently issued an important ruling pertaining to the liability of a general contractor and subcontractors in construction injury claims. In the case of William LePretre v. Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc., (2017 IL 162320), the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District upheld the circuit court’s granting of a summary judgment motion on behalf of the Defendant, Lend Lease Construction, Inc. (“Lend Lease”). This ruling will likely have an impact on defending construction injury claims in Illinois.
In William LePretre v. Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc., the Plaintiff filed a nine-count complaint including a negligence claim pursuant to Restatement Section 414 against Lend Lease, the general contractor. The Plaintiff was injured when he slipped and fell while installing iron rebar at a construction site. The Defendant, Lend Lease, was the general contractor for the project and entered into a subcontract with Adjustable Forms, Inc. (concrete subcontractor). Thereafter, Adjustable Forms, entered into a contract with the Plaintiff’s employer, Bond Steel, for the installation of the iron rebar.
Lend Lease filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that it did not owe the Plaintiff a duty under Restatement Section 414. In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Lend Lease argued that it did not direct or control the Plaintiff’s work at the construction site. Further, Lend Lease asserted that the contracts between the relevant parties for the construction project supported its position that it did not retain any control over the Plaintiff’s work.
In its opinion, the Illinois Appellate Court reiterated the general rule in Illinois, that a party who contracts with an independent contractor is not vicariously liable for tortious acts or omissions committed by the independent contractor because the party in control (i.e., the independent contractor) is the appropriate party to be bear the risk and be charged with that responsibility.
In the Lend Lease case, the Illinois Appellate Court analyzed the contracts between the parties and relevant deposition testimony regarding Lend Lease’s alleged control over the Plaintiff’s work. Specifically, the Illinois Appellate Court discussed that a general right to enforce safety does not trigger sufficient retained control under Restatement Section 414. The Illinois Appellate Court held that the contract provisions combined with the deposition testimony confirm that Lend Lease’s conduct was not sufficient to establish that it retained supervisory control over the safety of the work such that it owed a duty to the Plaintiff.
The Illinois Appellate Court’s ruling offers important insight into the Illinois courts’ interpretation of Restatement Section 414 as a method for plaintiffs to establish direct liability and provides a detailed discussion of the contract language and conduct that does not trigger direct liability under Section 414.
To read the entire Illinois Supreme Court opinion in William LePretre v. Lend Lease (US) Construction, Inc., please visit http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/Opinions/AppellateCourt/2017/1stDistrict/1162320.pdf.
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