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Paszkowski v. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

April 21, 2003

MAREK PASZKOWSKI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT OF GREATER CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 L 1615 Honorable David Donnersberger, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'malley

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiff, Marek Paszkowski, sued the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (the District), among others, for an injury sustained by plaintiff while working on the deep tunnel project in Chicago, Illinois. Plaintiff filed suit in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleging negligence. The District filed a motion to dismiss based on section 8-101 of the Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Act) (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998)), alleging that plaintiff filed the complaint beyond the one year time limit for bringing the action. On June 7, 2001, the trial court denied the District's motion finding that the four year time limit found in section 13-214 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the Code) (735 ILCS 5/ 13-214 (West 1998)) was applicable in this case.

The District filed a motion to reconsider the trial court's prior denial of its motion to dismiss predicated upon this court's June 18, 2001, decision in Greb v. Forest Preserve District of Cook County, 323 Ill. App. 3d 461, 752 N.E.2d 519 (2001). On November 28, 2001, the trial court reconsidered its ruling and found in favor of the District.

Plaintiff appeals claiming that the trial court erred in finding that section 8-101 of the Act applied to the instant case instead of section 13-214 of the Code. Plaintiff argues that the holding in Greb was incorrect and this court should reverse the trial court. For the following reasons we reverse the lower court's ruling and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

On March 5, 1998, plaintiff sustained serious injuries from an accident involving a cement remix car in the course of his duties as a construction laborer. Plaintiff was working on the deep tunnel project on property that was owned by the District. On February 9, 2000, plaintiff filed a complaint against the District to recover for the injuries he sustained. The District filed a motion to dismiss the action claiming that plaintiff failed to file his complaint within the one year limitation period of section 8-101 of the Act. Plaintiff responded that the proper limitation was contained in section 13-214 of the Code because it was more specific in that it applied to both construction torts as well as identified "any body politic" as a potential defendant. 735 ILCS 5/13-214 (West 1998). The trial court agreed with plaintiff and denied the District's motion.

On June 18, 2001, 11 days after the trial court denied the District's motion to dismiss, the Greb case was decided. The issue in Greb is identical to the issue in the case here. As a result, the District filed a motion in the trial court to reconsider it's previous ruling in light of Greb. The trial court granted the District's motion to dismiss based on section 8-101 of the Act and Greb. Plaintiff filed this timely appeal.

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff claims that the decision in Greb was incorrect and should not be applied by this court. First, plaintiff argues that the Greb decision failed to recognize the plain language of the section 13-214 of the Code. 735 ILCS 5/13-214 (West 1998). Second, the Greb court's reliance on Tosado v. Miller 188 Ill. 2d 186, 720 N.E.2d 1075 (1999), was misplaced. Finally, plaintiff insists that Greb failed to follow clear Illinois authority finding that section 13-214 of the Code is more specific than section 8-101 of the Act. 735 ILCS 5/13-214 (West 1998); 745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 1998). Plaintiff also argues, in the alternative, that Greb should not apply retroactively in his case should we find that the trial court did not err. For the reason that follow, we agree with plaintiff and need not address the issue of retroactivity.

This case presents questions of statutory interpretation, which are reviewed de novo. Michigan Avenue National Bank v. County of Cook, 191 Ill. 2d 493, 503, 732 N.E.2d 528 (2000). The cardinal rule of interpreting statutes, to which all other canons and rules are subordinate, is to ascertain and give effect to the true intent and meaning of the legislature. Kunkel v. Walton, 179 Ill. 2d 519, 533, 689 N.E.2d 1047 (1997). "The best evidence of legislative intent is the language used in the statute itself, which must be given its plain and ordinary meaning." Paris v. Feder, 179 Ill. 2d 173, 177, 688 N.E.2d 137 (1997). When the plain language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, the legislative intent that is discernable from this language must prevail, and no resort to other tools of statutory construction is necessary. Paris, 179 Ill. 2d at 177. Where there is an alleged conflict between two statutes, a court has a duty to interpret those statutes in a manner that avoids an inconsistency and gives effect to both statutes, where such an interpretation is reasonably possible. McNamee v. Federated Equipment & Supply Co., 181 Ill. 2d 415, 427, 692 N.E.2d 1157 (1998).

In Greb, the case upon which the trial court relied, the court was presented with the same issue before this court in this case. The plaintiff in Greb sued the defendant, the City of Chicago (City), alleging that it negligently maintained and marked a barricaded water main maintenance job site that caused his accident. The City claimed that the one year limitation on actions brought against governmental entities in section 8-101 of the Act should be applied in that case. 745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 2000). The plaintiff argued that the court should have applied the four year statute of limitations for causes of action relating to construction design management and supervision found in section 5/13-214 of the Code. 735 ILCS 5/13-214 (West 2000). The Greb court held, relying on Tosado v. Miller, 188 Ill. 2d 186, that section 8-101 of the Act applied to his action. Greb, 323 Ill. App. 3d 463. Greb also rejected the holding in Zimmer v. Village of Willowbrook, 242 Ill. App. 3d 437, 442, 610 N.E.2d 709 (1993). Zimmer held that the legislature intended for section 13-214(a), which was enacted after section 8-101, to constitute a limited exception to section 8-101 of the Act. Zimmer, 242 Ill. App. 3d at 443.

Section 13-214 of the Code provides in pertinent part:

"(a) Actions based upon tort, contract or otherwise against any person for an act or omission of such person in the design, planning, supervision, observation or management of construction, or construction of an improvement to real property shall be commenced within 4 years from the time the person bringing an action, or his or her privity, knew or should reasonably have known of such act or omission ***." 735 ILCS 5/13-214(a) (West 1998) Section 13-214 of the Code further ...


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