Homeowners Forfeit Argument In Illinois Supreme Court That Wasn’t Raised In Petition For Leave To Appeal

MD Electrical Contractors subcontracted to do work at defendants’ home. The homeowners did not pay for the work, so MD sued for the money. Because there was not a written contract, MD’s complaint used a theory of quantum meruit (that MD should be paid for the value of the work it performed). The homeowners moved to dismiss MD’s complaint, claiming that MD did not comply with the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act. The trial court agreed with the homeowners and dismissed the case. But the appellate court reversed, ruling that the Repair and Remodeling Act applied only to contractors, not subcontractors.

The homeowners took the case to the Illinois Supreme Court, which agreed with MD that the Act did not apply to subcontractors. The Act, the court ruled, could not be used as a defense to a quantum meruit suit by the electrical subcontractor.

In their petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, the homeowners raised only one issue, the applicability of the Repair and Remodeling Act. But in their brief to the court, the homeowners also argued that the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act restricted MD’s claim for compensation, and that MD’s request for quantum meruit damages went beyond the Mechanics Lien Act. MD in turn argued that the homeowners forfeited their Mechanics Lien argument because it was not raised in the petition for leave to appeal, as required by Illinois Supreme Court Rule 315.

The supreme court agreed that the homeowners forfeited the argument because the “question was not properly presented in the defendants’ petition for leave to appeal …” The homeowners argued that forfeiture did not apply because they raised the Mechanics Lien argument in the appellate court. But the supreme court said that was a “red herring.” The relevant question was “whether the issue is properly raised by the trial court record and can now be utilized to support the finding of the trial court.”

The whole case, MD Electrical Contractors v. Abrams, No. 104000 (4/3/08), is available by clicking here.