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Supreme Court: Damaged school suit came too late

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm •  Published: January 24, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) — A southern Illinois school district can't sue an architectural firm for building a school on an underground coal mine that later collapsed, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday.

In a 7-0 decision, the court ruled that the Gillespie Community school district's claim of "fraudulent misrepresentation" against Wight and Company was barred by a five-year statute of limitations.

In 1998, the Gillespie Community school district began construction plans for new elementary school in Benld, a coal mining town about 50 miles northeast of St. Louis. Engineers noted there was the possibility of mine subsidence, or the collapse of an underground mine, on the campus site, but school officials said in their suit that proper risks never were detailed and proceeded with building.

The new school was built in 2002 on the former mine site, but in 2009, the school's walls began sprouting large cracks, and the floors buckled. The school was closed that spring after it was declared unsafe, displacing hundreds of students until a new school could be built.

The school district filed a suit against the firm in Macoupin County Circuit Court in August 2009.

The circuit court, and later an appellate court, ruled in favor of Wight, noting that because the work was completed in the fall of 2002, the statute of limitations had long since passed. The school district, in turn, argued the lawmakers intended for no statute of limitations to apply to construction-based fraudulent misrepresentation or fraudulent concealment causes of actions.

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