In its decision in Inter-Rail Systems, Inc. v. Ravi Corp., the Illinois Appellate Court has announced limitations to the state’s mechanics lien law. The defendant, an owner of a parking lot and warehouse containing several drums of hazardous materials, was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site, which included scraping, sweeping and decontaminating the site. In conjunction with its clean-up efforts, the defendant contracted with the plaintiff for the removal and disposal of the drums from the premises.  

Upon the completion of its portion of the clean-up and the defendant’s failure to pay the contract balance, plaintiff filed a mechanic’s lien against the property and filed suit to enforce the lien. In support of its right to a mechanic’s lien, the plaintiff successfully argued that its removal of the drums constituted an “improvement” to the site under the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act.  

The Illinois Appellate Court, however, disagreed. The court concluded that “the activity of removing and disposing of drums containing hazardous waste, in and of itself, does not constitute an improvement to real property so as to be alienable activity under the Act.” In rendering its decision, the court noted that the “plaintiff did not perform the work that resulted in the filling of the drums with the hazardous waste.

It made no changes to the structure of the buildings or its land either by repair or demolition other than to facilitate waste removal. It merely removed and disposed of the drums, already filled with the waste, and performed incidental cleaning activities. None of these activities were shown to be part of an overall plan to improve rather than simply maintain the property.” Where the plaintiff’s scope of work does not bestow an improvement on the property, the court declined to extend the state’s mechanic lien statute to ensure payment.  

Inter-Rail Systems, Inc. v. Ravi Corp., No. 1-07-2369, 2008 WL 5382045 (Ill. App. 1 Dis. Dec. 22, 2008)