The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN
Plaintiffs Louis and Kathy Guglielmucci brought this action pursuant to the Illinois Structural Work Act (Act) as a result of injuries Louis suffered while working on the Regency Plaza Project (project). The Guglielmuccis named as defendants the project's owner, Regency Plaza Partnership (Regency), the project's general contractor, Marc Development Corporation (Marc), and Jones & Brown Company (Jones & Brown). Marc and Regency filed a third party complaint against M. Ecker & Company (Ecker) and Carpentry Collaborative, Inc. (Carpentry), among others. Marc and Regency argue that if found in violation of the Act they would be entitled to contribution from Ecker and Carpentry. Jones & Brown subsequently filed a second amended third party complaint against Ecker and Carpentry. Jones & Brown also argues that if found in violation of the Act it would be entitled to contribution from Ecker and Carpentry. Third party defendant Carpentry now moves for summary judgment in the complaint of Marc and Regency, and in Jones & Brown's second amended complaint. Third party defendant Ecker moves for summary judgment in Jones & Brown's second amended complaint. For the reasons stated below, Carpentry's motion is granted in part
and denied in part, and Ecker's motion is denied.
In the Guglielmuccis' complaint of October 12, 1990, they allege that Louis suffered injuries in an accident on September 25, 1990, when he fell through an opening in the metal decking upon which he was working. Gil Connelly (Connelly), Marc's project manager, had directed the creation and covering of the opening. As general contractor for the project, Marc had contracted with Ecker for the carpentry work. Ecker subsequently subcontracted the carpentry work to Carpentry -- Mr. Guglielmucci was working for Carpentry at the time of his injury.
The motions for summary judgment by third party defendants Ecker and Carpentry concern two particular elements of the Act: first, that the Act applies to "any owner, contractor . . . [or] subcontractor . . . having charge of the . . . construction . . . of any building" included in its provisions; and second, that the Act creates a right of action for injuries resulting from "any wilful violations . . . or wilful failure to comply with any of its provisions." 740 ILCS 150/9 (Michie 1993).
1. Carpentry's Motion Against Marc, Regency, and Jones & Brown
Carpentry contends that it cannot be liable under the Act because any violations on its part lacked the necessary element of willfulness. A willful violation of the Act occurs when one having charge of work either knows that a dangerous condition exists or could have discovered it by exercising reasonable care. Simmons v. Union Elec. Co., 121 Ill. App. 3d 743, 77 Ill. Dec. 169, 460 N.E.2d 28 (Ill.App. 1984), aff'd, Simmons v. Union Elec. Co., 104 Ill. 2d 444, 85 Ill. Dec. 347, 473 N.E.2d 946. Willfulness is primarily a factual question for the jury to decide. Brazier v. Kontos, 160 Ill. App. 3d 177, 111 Ill. Dec. 906, 513 N.E.2d 152 (Ill.App. 1987); Isabelli v. Cowles Chemical Co., 7 Ill. App. 3d 888, 289 N.E.2d 12, 18 (Ill.App. 1972).
In Carpentry's original motion it states that it was not involved with placing the metal decking on the roof or creating the opening through which Mr. Guglielmucci fell. (Turcotte Dep. at 93.) Wayne Turcotte, Carpentry's jobsite foreman, denies that he knew about the opening before the accident. However, Connelly testifies in his deposition that on three separate occasions he informed Turcotte about the opening. (Connelly Dep. at 89-93.) Therefore, Jones & Brown argues, any Carpentry violation of the Act was willful.
In a motion for summary judgment facts are construed in favor of the non-moving party, here Jones & Brown. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655, 8 L. Ed. 2d 176, 82 S. Ct. 993 (1962); Karazanos v. Navistar Int'l Transp. Corp., 948 F.2d 332, 335 (7th Cir. 1991). Carpentry apparently concedes this when it states that for purposes of its motion this court should assume that Turcotte "was advised of the hole in the roof by Mr. Connelly." (Reply Mem. at 2.) It argues, however, that this court should still enter summary judgment in its favor because even if Turcotte knew about the opening he did not know it represented a dangerous condition. Moreover, Ecker contends, Turcotte conducted a reasonable inspection of the deck without discovering the condition, which shows it could not have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable care.
Carpentry attempts to distinguish between knowledge of the opening and knowledge that it represented a dangerous condition. In Connelly's deposition, though, he explains that the reason he informed Turcotte of the opening was because of "possible hazards." (Connelly Dep. at 93.) Unlike Carpentry, Connelly does not distinguish between the existence of the opening and the existence of a dangerous condition. Moreover, Carpentry does not cite any cases that distinguish between knowledge of an injury-causing condition and knowledge that the condition was dangerous. See, e.g., Brazier, 111 Ill. Dec. at 910 (defendants could have discovered electrical wires); Simmons, 77 Ill. Dec. at 177 (defendant had opportunity to learn about oily conditions caused by floods). This court is not prepared to decide, as a matter of law, that knowledge of an opening in a metal deck upon which men are working is distinguishable from knowledge of a dangerous condition. Turcotte's alleged knowledge of the opening could constitute knowledge of a dangerous condition under the Act.
Carpentry further contends that even if the opening was a dangerous condition, it could not have discovered the condition by exercising reasonable care. As proof of its contention, Carpentry presents Turcotte's testimony of his inspection of the deck. (Turcotte Dep. at 61-65.) However, based upon Turcotte's description of his inspection, this court is not prepared to decide as a matter of law that it was reasonable.
In Simmons, the court held that the defendant could have learned of the slippery conditions left by flooding because it was a periodic occurrence, rather than a momentary problem. 77 Ill. Dec. at 177. Here there is evidence that the opening was in existence for at least 14 days. (Connelly Dep. at 74-75.) Therefore, the opening was not momentary and occurred more often than periodically -- it was an ongoing condition. In Brazier, the court held that since the defendants were on the jobsite every day, and on the location of the accident at least twice, they could have discovered the electrical wires that injured the plaintiff. 111 Ill. Dec. at 910. Here there is evidence that Turcotte was on the jobsite throughout Carpentry's work and was on the location of the accident at least once. Any differences between those ...