Dismissal With Prejudice – Plaintiff’s Negligence Theory Barred by the Economic Loss Doctrine
Steve Becker recently won a motion to dismiss with prejudice. This matter stemmed from a property damage case involving a roof collapse at a commercial building, in Chicago. After an initial dismissal, the Plaintiff re-alleged that our client (a masonry contractor, who allegedly removed some columns that supported the roof trusses) performed its work in a negligent manner, resulting in the roof collapse. In addition to claiming extensive property damage, the Plaintiff was claiming lost profits, due to an inability to lease the subject building.
The “economic loss” doctrine provides that a defective condition caused by a contractor’s shoddy work is considered an “economic loss,” which is not compensable in a negligence action by the party who retained the contractor. An exception to the rule is that a Plaintiff can recover for the defective condition under a negligence theory, if a “sudden and dangerous event” occurs as a result of the condition and if this event causes either personal injury or external property damage (i.e., damage to something other than the condition itself.)
Plaintiff’s counsel again argued that the “economic loss doctrine” did not apply, because the “sudden and dangerous event” was actually the collapse of the column and truss that supported the roof, and therefore the roof collapse constituted “external damage.” Steve, citing various Illinois caselaw, argued that the “sudden and dangerous event” was the roof collapse itself (as opposed to the collapse of the failed column or truss), and that the Plaintiff’s claimed exception to the doctrine therefore did not apply. The judge agreed with Steve’s motion to dismiss, and the negligence count (including the claim for punitive damages) was dismissed, this time with prejudice.