Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Home Repair and Remodeling Act case.

There are now conflicting opinions between the 1st and 4th districts as to whether the equitable remedy of quantum meruit is available under the Home Repair and Remodeling Act -- Who wants to go to the Supreme Court?

On August 10, 2009, the 1st District issued its opinion in K. Miller Construction Company, Inc. v. McGinnis (Opinion here). In that case, the homeowner, a lawyer, ordered nearly $500,000 in remodeling work to his house. The general contractor did not require a written contract. Long story short, the homeowner did not pay. The contractor sued for breach of oral contract and quantum meruit (literally, "as much as he deserves") and the trial court dismissed.

The 4th District held in Smith v. Bogard, 377 Ill.App.3d 842 (2007), that permitting a recovery in quantum meruit "would run afoul to the legislature's intent of protecting consumers, would reward deceptive practices, and would violate public policy."

However, the 1st District said that it was "unpersuaded by the reasoning" in Smith. The Court then spent nearly 40 pages explaining its reasoning before it held that quantum meruit remains an equitable remedy available under the Act. The Court explained that in a case for quantum meruit, the plaintiff is only entitled to "as much as he deserves." The defendants are allowed to present evidence concerning unfinished work, shoddy work, etc., and the plaintiff's claim would presumably be reduced accordingly. Quantum meruit is a proper avenue of recovery because the nature of the remedy itself provides ample protection against abuses the passage of the Act was meant to protect.

It should be noted that the plaintiff in K. Miller v. McGinnis was a general contractor. I believe that a quantum meruit recovery is still unavailable to subcontractors, but this case definately gives us some good points to argue.

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