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Bleck v. Stepanich

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 27, 1978.

THOMAS F. BLECK ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THOMAS P. STEPANICH ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. JOHN L. HUGHES, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WOODWARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs, Thomas F. Bleck and Daniel K. Bleck, licensed Illinois architects, brought suit against Thomas Stepanich, individually and as trustee, Dr. Edward Sarsha, and Dr. Ramon Georges, pursuant to a written contract for architectural services. Defendants filed an answer and a counterclaim which alleged losses due to plaintiffs' failure to complete the building on time. Following a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of the defendants and against plaintiffs on the original suit, and for the counterdefendants on the counterclaim. Plaintiffs appeal the judgment in favor of defendants.

Defendants were partners in a project for the construction of a combination professional-office and apartment building on land they owned. On about April 1, 1968, plaintiffs, who were to act as architects for the proposed project, forwarded a proposed contract to defendant Stepanich. Under the terms of the proposed contract plaintiffs were to be paid 6% of the bid accepted for the project, apportioned so that 4% would accrue as their fee when plaintiffs completed the plans and specifications and the remaining 2% would accrue for plaintiffs' work in supervising the construction of the building.

The proposed contract was reviewed by defendant Stepanich, an attorney, who made some revisions. The proposed contract had defined the cost of work as follows:

"5. Definition of the Cost of the Work — The cost of the work, as herein referred to, means the cost to the Owner, but such cost shall not include any Architect's or engineer's fees."

The revised contract defined the cost of work as follows:

"8. Definition of the Cost of the Work — The cost of the work, as herein referred to, means the cost to the Owner, but such cost shall not include any Architect's or engineer's fees, cost of furnishings or the cost of the land."

The revised contract also contained a clause not found in the original contract as proposed by plaintiffs, which read as follows:

"2. The Architect will make or procure preliminary estimates on the costs of the work and will endeavor to keep the actual cost of the work as low as may be consistent with the purpose of the development with proper material and workmanship."

The contract as revised was signed by all parties.

A feasibility study, dated January 10, 1969, gave an estimated cost of the building and land at $272,150. Defendant Georges discussed the study with plaintiffs. He indicated that the amount was not excessive in light of the $250,000 ceiling the defendants had asked for and that he would recommend to his partners that they should go ahead on the project.

The plans and specifications for the project were completed in July of 1969 and submitted to prospective bidders; the total low bid received was $283,500. Plaintiffs then met with defendant Georges who informed them that the cost of the building was too high and requested revisions in the plans. Plaintiffs commenced work on the plan revisions, which involved the deletion of the second floor; however, prior to the completion of the revisions, defendant Georges ordered plaintiffs to stop work on the revisions and to do plans and specifications for a new building. This new building would consist of 3000 square feet to house dental offices; according to plaintiffs it was possible to construct such a building for $90,000. However, the final plan, owing to the inclusion of public washrooms and public lobby and entranceway, required 3600 square feet. The plans and specifications were sent out to bidders and in December of 1969, a low bid of $130,734 was received by plaintiffs and forwarded to defendant Georges. Subsequently defendant Georges informed plaintiffs that the cost was higher than expected and requested plaintiffs to make revisions. On the basis of plaintiffs' revisions, a revised low bid of $109,992.72 was received.

In January of 1970, defendant Georges informed plaintiffs that he and the other defendants did not wish to pursue the project. Plaintiffs forwarded their bill for the project in the amount of $12,536.39, to defendants. The amount was based on 4% of the bid on the original building of $283,500 which came to $11,340, plus revision cost of $1,196.39. The defendants refused to pay the bill and this suit resulted.

At trial it was defendants' position that plaintiffs agreed to complete the entire project for a maximum cost of $250,000. Plaintiffs argued that the contract, drafted by defendant Stepanich constituted the complete and final agreement of the parties thereto. The trial court found as a matter of law that the contract was incomplete, leaving entirely up to plaintiffs the cost, how large the building was going to be, and permitted the defendants to supply the missing cost figure by the use of parol evidence. The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial ...


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