Foran Glennon Palandech Ponzi & Rudloff

February 2016

Illinois Court of Appeals Refuses to Extend Implied Warranty of Habitability to Design Professionals

Eric Shukis

Under Illinois law the implied warranty of habitability only applied to builders.  A series of cases have marginally expanded the doctrine to others involved in the construction of tangible structures.  Encouraged by these cases, plaintiffs have urged courts to extend the doctrine further so as to include design professionals. The Illinois Court of Appeals recently refused to do so in Board of Managers of Park Point at Wheeling Condo. Ass’n v. Park Point at Wheeling, LLC, 2015 IL App (1st) 123452.

 

Factual Background.  The implied warranty of habitability claims in Park Point stemmed from the construction of a condominium complex.  The project architect designed the condominiums but did not participate in construction, development, or sale of the units.  Several years after construction was completed the condominium association discovered that air and water infiltration was damaging interior flooring and finishes.  The association attributed the damage to latent defects in design and construction and filed suit against a number of parties, including the project architect.  The trial court granted the architect’s motion to dismiss the implied warranty claim directed against it, ruling that the doctrine was inapplicable to design professionals.

 

Discussion.  On appeal, the association asked the Appellate Court to extend the implied warranty of habitability to the architect as a matter of public policy.  The Court refused to do so, noting the doctrine only applied to parties that actually build structures.  This reasoning is consistent with well-established law in Illinois and other jurisdictions that prohibits heightening a design professional’s contractual obligations by adding an implied warranty of habitability.  The Court recognized that like other professionals, architects and engineers deal in inexact sciences that make it impossible for them to warrant the accuracy of their work.

 

The Court also distinguished prior Illinois decisions where the implied warranty of habitability was extended to other parties besides the builder.  As the Court pointed out, each of those decisions involved only a fairly limited extension and, importantly, involved a party who had helped with either the physical construction or sale of the property.  In contrast, architects and engineers merely design and create plans and specifications for structures—they do no build or sell the structures.

 

Conclusion.  Though limited in scope, prior cases extending the reach of the implied warranty of habitability emboldened some plaintiffs to seek a further extension of the doctrine to include design professionals.  The Park Point decision cuts those efforts short, establishing a clear limit to the implied warranty of habitability in Illinois.