Springfield Business Journal Articles


Recent Legal Developments

In comparison to previous years, there was a relative dearth of new significant laws coming out of our statehouse over the last year. Perhaps the Governor has other things on his mind and our legislators are too busy thinking of new ways to feed the State’s budget. Of course, we all know about the smoking ban. But beyond that there are a few recent laws that may be of interest to some of our readers.

As of January 2008 employees who bring claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act can have their cases heard by juries in state court rather than by judges at the Illinois Human Rights Commission. Previously, it was generally more difficult for employees to get to a jury. Conventional wisdom suggests that jurors are generally more sympathetic than judges to employees who file claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. I would therefore expect this new law to result in more claims being filed. Of course, if you are an employer, this will make such claims more costly to defend and settle. For those reasons, it’s even more important that employers remain proactive in managing employees and take appropriate steps to reduce the risk of employment litigation.

The "Illinois Contractor Prompt Payment Act" will likely affect construction contractors, owners and lenders who have projects in Illinois. The Act applies to all contracts for the design, construction, alteration, improvement, or repair of Illinois real property. It exempts contracts for work funded by public money, performed on single-family residences, and performed on multi-family residences of 12 or fewer units.

The Act:
  • Considers a contractor's application for payment approved if an owner does not deliver a written statement identifying amounts the owner is withholding, and explaining why, within 25 days after the contractor submits the application for payment.
  • Requires an owner to pay approved amounts to the contractor within 
    15 days after approving an application for payment.
  • Provides that an owner's instruction to the lender or architect to process or pay in response to an application for payment is not considered approval of the application.
  • Imposes 10 percent annual interest on amounts not timely paid.
  • Allows an unpaid contractor to suspend work after giving the owner seven days advance notice.
Notably, the Act will likely conflict with the terms in most construction contracts and loan agreements being used in Central Illinois. It remains to be seen whether contracts requiring owners to waive the benefits of the Act will be enforced by the courts. In short, expect this new law to cause additional confusion and delay in the progress of a construction project.

Family Law:
The Legislature amended the Domestic Violence Act so that it now addresses pet ownership. A court can now grant someone seeking a domestic violence protective order with exclusive care and custody of a pet or animal. The Act was amended because of concern that pets were being used as a way to intimidate or retaliate against abuse victims.

Traffic Laws:
For those readers with teenagers behind the wheel, our legislators passed new laws that should alleviate some of your concerns. First, teenage drivers under the age of 19 are not permitted to use cell phones while behind the wheel. That includes talking on the phone and texting. Exceptions include emergency calls to the 911 system. Second, a new law limits drivers under 18 from driving with more than one passenger under the age of 20, excluding immediate family members. Third, curfew laws have changed for teenagers holding a graduated driver's license. Drivers under 18 must not drive after 10 on weekdays and 11 on weekends. The penalties for violations are severe enough to catch the attention of most of your children.

Real Estate:
For all contracts to sell residential real property executed after January 1, 2008, the Illinois Radon Awareness Act now comes into play. According to the new law, the seller must supply the buyer with two documents before the buyer will become bound on a contract to purchase the property. The first is a pamphlet from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) entitled "Radon Testing Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions." The second is a form to sign called "Disclosure of Information on Radon Hazards." The law applies to one to four residence residential properties, including new construction. Sellers are not required to agree to testing and/or remediation of radon gas.

Also, although on the books since January 1, 2007, another law requires that every "dwelling unit" must be equipped with at least one approved and operable carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of every room used for sleeping purposes. A Dwelling Unit is defined as a single-family residence as well as each living unit of a multiple-family residence and each living unit in a mixed use building. The law exempts residential units in buildings that: (1) do not rely on combustion of fossil fuel for heat, ventilation or hot water; and (2) are not connected in any way to a garage; and (3) are not sufficiently close to any ventilated source of carbon monoxide.

Consumer Law:
As long as gift certificates and gift cards are used within five years, their value cannot be reduced nor can they expire. Previously, reductions in the value of gift cards and expiration dates were set by the issuer of the certificates.

Finally, for all of you oenophiles out there, a new law dramatically expands consumer choice for winery-to-consumer purchases made by Illinois residents. Previously, only wineries in five states could ship direct to Illinois citizens. Under the new law, wineries from every state will have the option of purchasing a permit from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission that allows them to ship up to 12 cases per individual per year, among other provisions.

by Thomas C. Pavlik, Jr.
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