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Meek v. Spinney

OPINION FILED AUGUST 1, 1977.

ROBERT M. MEEK, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

SPINNEY, COADY AND PARKER ARCHITECTS, INC., F/K/A G-S-C ARCHITECTS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. ALBERT G. WEBBER, III, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a Structural Work Act case.

And we affirm.

The complaint here alleged that Spinney, Coady and Parker Architects, an architectural firm, and Cedric H. Reed were in charge of the construction of the roof under Capital Development Board contracts for work to be done at the Adolph Meyer Zone Center in Decatur, and that plaintiff Meek was an employee of C.A. Petry and Sons, Inc., the general contractor on the job, when the ladder he was using collapsed. The complaint further alleged that defendants Spinney and Reed were in charge of the construction and were responsible for plaintiff's injuries under sections 1 and 9 of the Structural Work Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, pars. 60, 69). Copies of the architect's contract with the Capital Development Board, part of the general contractor's contract, and Cedric Reed's contract were attached to the complaint.

Defendants filed separate motions to dismiss alleging that plaintiff's only remedy was under the Workmen's Compensation Act and that each is not a "person having charge of" the construction as is necessary to allege a claim under the Structural Work Act. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, having found, as a matter of law, that neither defendant was in charge of the work. Plaintiff appeals.

The sole issue on review is whether plaintiff's complaint alleged any facts which, together with the reasonable inferences therefrom, could support a finding that either defendant was "in charge of" the work, as described in the Structural Work Act. The Act states in part:

"Any owner, contractor, sub-contractor, foreman or other person having charge of the erection, construction, repairing, alteration, removal or painting of any building, bridge, viaduct or other structure within the provisions of this act, shall comply with all the terms thereof, and any such owner, contractor, sub-contractor, foreman or other person violating any of the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

For any injury to person or property, occasioned by any wilful violations of this act, or wilful failure to comply with any of its provisions, a right of action shall accrue to the party injured, for any direct damages sustained thereby." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 48, par. 69.

Both defendants Spinney and Reed must be — if they are anything — an "other person."

• 1, 2 More than one entity may be in charge of the work and the determination of that issue is generally a question of fact for the jury. (McInerney v. Hasbrook Construction Co. (1975), 62 Ill.2d 93, 338 N.E.2d 868.) The complaint must allege more than the conclusion that defendant is "in charge" in order to withstand a motion to dismiss. (Van Dekerkhov v. City of Herrin (1972), 51 Ill.2d 374, 282 N.E.2d 723.) "Having charge of" is a term given a broad meaning in view of the beneficent purposes of the Act, and is not limited to active supervision and control. Larson v. Commonwealth Edison Co. (1965), 33 Ill.2d 316, 211 N.E.2d 247.

The two defendants will be treated separately.

SPINNEY

The issue of an architect's possible liability under the Structural Work Act was first discussed in Miller v. DeWitt (1967), 37 Ill.2d 273, 226 N.E.2d 630. There, plaintiff was an employee of the contractor who sued the supervising architect. The court stated:

"As a general rule it has been said that the general duty to `supervise the work' merely creates a duty to see that the building when constructed meets the plans and specifications contracted for. ...


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