Fifth District affirms Madison County ruling over contract claim

The Fifth District Appellate Court has affirmed a ruling in a Madison County breach of contract case.

In an unpublished order filed Tuesday, the appeals panel upheld Associate Judge Thomas Chapman’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of Sherrill Associates and against GASA Leasing.

Justice Bruce Stewart delivered the judgment of the court. Justices Stephen Spomer and Richard Goldenhersh concurred.

Chapman, the panel’s order states, “did not err in granting summary judgment where there was no issue of material fact and the unambiguous contract terms provided that the defendant was to pay monthly for services rendered to it and it failed to pay.”

The appellate court’s Rule 23 order stems from a two-count complaint Sherrill filed against GASA in August 2010.

Sherrill -- a land surveying, engineering and planning firm with offices in Illinois and Missouri -- sought payment for services it provided to GASA in relation to a residential subdivision in Collinsville.

In 2007, Sherrill sent a proposal letter to GASA with a variety of surveying and engineering services for the 39-plus-lot subdivision.

Among other details, the proposal stated that invoices would be submitted monthly and payment would be due upon receipt of the invoices. GASA signed and accepted the proposal in January 2008.

Sherrill claimed that it provided services to GASA between February 2008 and September 2009 and despite demands for payment, the company failed to pay.

According to the appellate court order, Sherrill sent a letter to GASA in April that demanded payment of about $42,383 and noted that it authorized its attorney to take legal action to collect the amount due if it did not receive the money by the end of the month.

In August, Sherrill sued GASA under the theories of action on account and quantum meruit. The firm later amended its complaint to include a copy of the parties’ agreement.

Chapman in November 2010 entered a default judgment against GASA for nearly $48,000. GASA filed a petition to vacate and a motion to dismiss in January 2011. Two months later, Chapman granted its motion to vacate.

After a mandatory arbitration hearing in July 2011, arbitrators entered an order awarding Sherrill $50,000 plus $219 in court costs.  Shortly after, GASA filed a notice of its rejection of the arbitration award.

It then filed an answer to Sherrill’s complaint and a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Sherrill failed to perform the contract terms because it did not prepare or submit a final plat for city approval. It also claimed that Sherrill was in breach of contract for not completing work it allegedly had paid for.

Sherrill responded, asserting that its agreement with GASA didn’t say that payment was contingent upon the city approval.

It also claimed it was entitled to judgment in its favor because it provided services pursuant to the agreement with GASA, which apparently decided not to pursue the project.

Chapman heard arguments on the motions for summary judgment in October 2011, after which time it granted Sherrill’s motion.

GASA appealed to the appellate court, which this week, sided with Chapman in its unpublished order.

Saying that the language of the contract was not “ambiguous or open to more than one meaning,” Stewart wrote for the appeals panel that “it is clear that parties intended for Sherrill to be paid monthly for services performed during the billing period.”

“Sherrill performed services for GASA and provided monthly invoices, and GASA failed to pay,” he added. “GASA’s failure to pay for services rendered was a breach of contract.”


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