Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon.
Rosemary Duschene LaPorta, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE SULLIVAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
In this appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in finding for defendants at the close of plaintiff's case as to a count in plaintiff's complaint seeking foreclosure of a mechanic's lien claim on the basis that it had not established a prima facie case on that count.
Plaintiff, BRL Carpenters, Ltd. (BRL), filed a two-count complaint against American National Bank & Trust Co., as trustee of the Chicago Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital (the Hospital), Loop Hospital partnership (Loop), as beneficial owner thereof, and the individual Loop partners *fn1 seeking (a) foreclosure of its mechanic's lien for construction management services and carpentry labor totaling $116,354.38, and (b) damages for breach of contract in the same amount. *fn2
It appears from the extensive record that Loop was formed to purchase and renovate the Hospital and to thereafter reopen and operate it as the Chicago Specialty Hospital. Bruce Larson (Larson), president of BRL, and David Walsh (Walsh), managing general partner of Loop, executed a standard American Institute of Architects (AIA) written contract (the Loop contract), which was prepared by Larson and contained the following pertinent articles:
"1.1 The Contractor shall perform all the Work required by the Contract Documents for [:] Plans and specifications as submitted to owner.
2.1 * * * The Contractor agrees to furnish efficient business administration and superintendence * * *.
5.1 In consideration of the performance of the Contract, the Owner agrees to pay the Contractor * * *:
$50,000.00 at time of closing for consulting and preconstruction work $50,000.00
$15,000.00 each month for 7 following months 105,000.00 ___________ $155,000.00
6.1 The term Cost of the Work shall include * * *:
6.1.1 Wages paid for labor in the direct employ of the Contractor in the performance of the Work * * *.
14.1. The Contractor shall supervise and direct the Work * * *."
At trial, Larson was the only witness called. He testified that under this contract, BRL was to provide construction management services for Loop in connection with the renovation of the Hospital. The "consulting and preconstruction work" referred to in article 5 consisted essentially of conferring with the partners and architects to develop the overall plans for the project prior to July 7, 1980, the date Loop's purchase of the Hospital was finalized. The post-closing services for which the lien is sought *fn3 included continual coordination and planning of the project, preparation of budgets and estimates, bidding out and entering into subcontracts for the work, overseeing the work progress of the subcontractors, and preparation of statements submitted to the mortgagor for payment as portions of the work were completed.
Describing the performance of these services in chronological sequence, Larson testified that in the first month after closing he met with Walsh either at Walsh's office or at the Hospital on a daily basis and frequently consulted with the partners, architects, and Hospital administrative personnel to determine their requirements for utilization of the space within the Hospital, drew up estimates and budgets for the improvements, and began bidding out the subcontracts. In the second month, he continued meeting with the principals to plan and budget the renovation, entered into the subcontracts, and supervised the workmen on the job. During the third month, he was still meeting with Walsh almost daily to discuss and make changes in the plans and was also monitoring the construction taking place. Throughout the following months, as the amount of actual remodeling work increased, he became more involved with monitoring the construction, but he also continued to plan the project and to meet with the partners to advise them of ...