Appellate Court Overturns Grant of Summary Judgment in Successor Liability Case

For many business owners, they operate their companies with the hopes that they will continue to be successful ventures long after they are gone. However, both low level and senior personnel eventually move on, and businesses may have obligations to their surviving family members. Lubin Austermuehle is familiar with such agreements, and often times companies may not wish to honor those obligations after employees are no longer working for the company. Pielet v. Pielet is one case discovered by our Crystal Lake business litigation lawyers that addresses that very issue.

In Pielet v. Pielet, Arthur Pielet allegedly entered into a consulting agreement with Defendants that provided him lifelong monthly payments in exchange for his consulting services for Defendants scrap metal business, and should he pass on, those payments were to continue and be paid to his wife until her death. Arthur Pielet eventually died, and Defendants then allegedly ceased making payments to his widow, who filed suit alleging a breach of contract and successor liability among other causes of action. Plaintiff successfully filed a motion for summary judgment, and Defendants appealed the trial court’s decision.

On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Defendant PBS One, a successor in interest to Pielet Corp. (the company who was originally obligated under the consulting agreement), was liable under the agreement because they had entered into a purchase and assignment agreement with Pielet Corp. In response, PBS One argued that a novation had occurred whereby Pielet LP had substituted for Pielet Corp. in the consulting agreement, which absolved PBS One of liability. PBS One supported their claims with deposition testimony that, in the absence of providing a defense, at least raised an issue of material fact as to the existence of the novation. Additionally, PBS One argued that because the company had dissolved four years prior to the cessation of payments (and the accrual of Plaintiff’s claims), the applicable Illinois Survival Statute prevented Plaintiff’s claim.

The Appellate Court began with its analysis of the Survival Statute, and found that the statute applies to “rights”, “liabilities”, and “causes of action.” Because the case at bar concerned Plaintiff’s “right” to payment and Defendants’ “liability” to pay, and Plaintiff raised her claim to payment within the five-year period allowed under the statute, her claim was allowed under the law. The Court went on to discuss Defendant’s second argument regarding the existence of a novation that would place liability elsewhere. The Court did not make a finding of a novation, but the facts indicated that a novation could be inferred at two different points in time. Thus, the Court concluded that a triable fact question existed as to whether a novation occurred, and if there was a novation, at what point in time did it occur. In so holding, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on all of the appealed causes of action, and remanded the case.

Lubin Austermuehle is a full-service litigation firm based in Chicago, Illinois that focuses on business litigation matters. We represent both plaintiffs and defendants, and we have experience in matters ranging from commercial lease disputes to nondisclosure agreements. Our attorneys have more than twenty-five years of experience and have achieved favorable results in many “bet the business” lawsuits. Lubin Austermuehle has many Naperville business litigation lawyers who can identify and understand the legal issues in a dispute, no matter how complex they may be. Our focus with each client is to resolve the legal issues efficiently and with minimal costs, while still providing outstanding representation. If your business is being sued or you are seeking advice to stay out of court, call our lawyers today to discuss what Lubin Austermuehle can do for you. For a consultation, call 630-333-0333 or send us an email through our website.

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