CHICAGO – A federal court in Chicago has upheld a ruling that a dispute between a Lake Geneva, Wis., man and a group of architects over compensation for a home construction project is subject to arbitration, as the judge said the contract's provision granting the architects a percentage cut of the total project price was the same as specifying an exact amount of money due.
U.S. District Judge M. David Weisman issued a six-page ruling on Dec. 10 denying plaintiff Dana Mecum's renewed motion for judgment and affirming the jury decision in favor of the defendants, Weilert Custom Homes LLC, Liederbach & Graham Architects, Phillip Liederbach and R. Michael Graham.
Mecum had sued Weilert and the architects over the design of his multimillion dollar home in Lake Geneva. Mecum asserted the work was done on a handshake deal, but the defendants stated Mecum had signed a standard American Institute of Architects written agreement, which included an arbitration clause.
A jury sided with the architects. But Mecum contested the decision in a motion for judgment, asserting the jury erred by not noticing the AIA-standard contract did not specify the price the architects would receive for their services.
Wisconsin law considers price as an essential term of a contract of services.
In his ruling, however, Weisman noted the contract required Mecum to pay the architects 14 percent of the total cost of the work. And the judge said that was good enough to validate the contract and uphold the jury verdict.
Weisman stated "the court has no basis for disturbing the jury’s determination that the price term was sufficiently definite to create an enforceable contract."
He also mentioned that "based on the evidence presented, plaintiff, more than defendants, had the ability to control the size, scope and most importantly, the cost, of the project."
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Case No. 1:15-cv-08548