Illinois Supreme Court Overturns Trial and Appellate Court Decisions In Key Mechanic's Lien Case

Case Argued by Much Shelist for Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd.

Nov 23, 2015, 08:00 ET from Much Shelist

CHICAGO, Nov. 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Chicago-based law firm Much Shelist announced today it has secured a victory in the Illinois Supreme Court on behalf of its client Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. (Burke Engineering).  In Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. v. Heritage Bank of Central Illinois et al., Chief Justice Rita B. Garman delivered a unanimous opinion reversing previous judgments by the Circuit Court of Peoria County and Third District Appellate Court of Illinois, and remanding the case to trial court for further proceedings.

In 2008, Burke Engineering was engaged to perform engineering services for a proposed residential development in Peoria County, including plat services, a wetlands survey, and planning for roads, utilities, and sewers. After Burke began the work, the property changed ownership and the new owner (with whom Burke had contracted) filed for bankruptcy without paying Burke for the services it had provided, valued at more than $100,000. Burke recorded a mechanic's lien and filed suit. 

The trial court in Peoria County granted summary judgment in favor of Heritage Bank, which held the mortgage interest in the property. The court found that Burke's services did not constitute an improvement to the property as defined in section 1 of the Mechanics Lien Act, and that the provision of services was not induced or encouraged by the property owner. The Third District Appellate Court affirmed this judgment in January of 2015.

Burke then engaged Much Shelist to challenge the court findings. With the assistance of trial counsel, Much Shelist filed and was granted a Petition for Leave to Appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court. Oral arguments were presented Sept. 23 by Scott R. Fradin, Much Shelist Principal and Co-Chair of its Construction Law practice group. Scott J. Smith, also a Principal in the group, assisted in the preparation of briefs and oral argument.

"The Court agreed with every facet of our argument," said Fradin. "If a physical improvement is required in order for an engineer to secure a lien for their work, then these professionals would be subject to the whims of the parties with whom they contract, who may decide to complete the project or not. Such an outcome is contrary to the protective purpose of the Act, and is antithetical to longstanding Illinois Supreme Court authority."

Christopher B. Burke added, "We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome of this case. We made it abundantly clear that the work we performed was intended for improvement of the property. This decision reinforces the rights of design and engineering professionals as spelled out in the law."   

About Much Shelist
Much Shelist is a Chicago-based full-service business law firm with an office in Irvine, CA. Founded in 1970, Much Shelist has nearly 100 attorneys. The firm offers services in a wide range of practice areas, including corporate law; mergers and acquisitions; private equity; venture capital and emerging growth companies; commercial finance; taxation and business planning; labor and employment; commercial real estate and construction; business litigation and dispute resolution; insurance coverage and risk management; intellectual property and technology; health care law; and wealth transfer and succession planning. For more information, visit or follow the firm on Twitter at @MuchShelistLaw.


SOURCE Much Shelist