Dana Herra Jul. 24, 2015, 11:28pm

A Chicago-based maker of cooked and refined meat products has filed suit against construction businesses it holds accountable for a 2014 fire at its facility in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood.

Attorneys Kevin P. Caraher and Phil T. Carroll, of the firm of Cozen O’Connor, filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court on July 16 on behalf of South Chicago Packing LLC and Ed Miniat LLC against Ledcor Construction, Inc., The Clay Companies Inc., Raiserite Concrete Lifting Inc., and Hydraulic Mudpumps Inc.

South Chicago Packing processes and refines shortening, food oils and margarine. South Holland-based Miniat produces cooked meat products for restaurant chains and packaged food lines, and is the parent company of South Chicago Packing, according to the company’s website.

On Feb. 4, 2014, work began at South Chicago Packing’s facility on West 38th Street to raise a concrete floor that had deteriorated and was sinking. The companies had hired Ledcor as the general contractor on the project. Ledcor had given them the option of replacing the floor’s structural steel or lifting it up by filling the space under the floor with concrete and expanding polyurethane foam, or using polyurethane foam alone.

The companies chose the foam option, and Ledcor subcontracted the work to The Clay Companies, which used a foam product manufactured by Hydraulic Mudpumps and sold by RaiseRite. After two days, the space had been filled. The day the work was completed, however, a chemical fire developed in the foam. No one was injured in the fire, but the building sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage, according to court documents.

According to the lawsuit, Hydraulic Mudpumps was aware of at least one similar fire that had happened previously when the foam was used to fill a large space in a short period of time.

The suit claims Hydraulic Mudpumps should have provided written guidelines, instructions and warnings to customers buying the foam, and failed to adequately train or instruct installers of the product in safe installation.

As the seller of the foam, the suit alleges RaiseRite Concrete Lifting was also responsible for making sure its customers understood the characteristics and dangers of the foam and knew how to install it properly. Both companies are charged with negligence and strict liability.

The lawsuit alleges Miniat LLC and South Chicago Packing had reasonable grounds to assume the work being performed by their general contractor, Ledcor, and subcontractor, The Clay Companies, would be performed in a safe manner, and so the complaint alleges against both companies breach of implied warranty for failing to live up to that expectation.

The two construction companies are also charged with negligence.

The suit also charges Ledcor with breach of oral contract, claiming it failed to act as a competent general contractor and failed to take such precautions as hiring a suitable subcontractor, complying with safety procedures and protecting the building from damage.

On each count – nine in total – the plaintiffs are requesting damages of more than $2 million, plus court costs and any additional damages the court deems appropriate. The plaintiffs are asking for a jury trial.

The 2014 fire was not the first the South Chicago Packing plant had suffered in recent years. The facility also suffered fire damage in a blaze – unrelated to any construction activity – on Christmas Day 2008, according to published reports.

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Cook County Circuit Court
50 W Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602

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