ILLINOIS LAW UPDATE - Duty of General Contractor

Posted: 6/29/2017

An Illinois First District Appellate decision, William LePretre v. Lend Lease(US) Construction, Inc., 2017 IL App (1st) 162320 icon LePretre_Opinion.pdf (92 KB) was recently released wherein the appellate court clarified the duty of a general contractor and found in this case that no duty to the plaintiff existed. First, the court acknowledged the general rule in Illinois that a party who entrusts an independent contractor will not be held vicariously liable for tortious acts or omissions committed by the independent contractor because the hiring entity has no control over the details and methods of the independent contractor's work. The general contractor is thus not in a good position to prevent negligent performance and liability therefore does not attach. The court then better defined that general contractors do not take on liability under the duty of care by simply retaining the general responsibilities over the jobsite such as safety programs and authority to stop the work. The appellate court upheld the trial court's ruling that "having the authority to stop the work, a safety program, or a safety director, without more, are merely the general responsibilities of a general contractor and are insufficient to establish retained control.' The appellate court further agreed with the trial court that "there was no evidence that the defendant engaged in the type of pervasive supervision that affects the means and methods of the work and gives rise to liability." The court also clarified that the issue of a defendant's retained control may be decided as a matter of law where the evidence is insufficient to create a factual question. In doing so, the court explained that you first look at the written agreement between the contractor and independent subcontractor but then you also look to the conduct of the subcontractor to see if the conduct is at variance with the agreement. We will monitor this opinion for any changes during the 30-day period in which the court has to amend the opinion and keep you advised of any changes.