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Christopher B. Burke Engineering, Ltd. vs. Heritage Bank of Central IL

Docket No. 118955 Opinion Filed November 19, 2015

In this Opinion the Illinois Supreme Court comes down on the side of common sense when it comes to lienable improvements under §1 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act 770 ILCS 60/1. After reversing the lower Courts however, the case was sent back down to the Circuit Court to determine whether the owner of the property “knowingly permitted” improvements to be made.


In 2006 Carol and Glen Harkins (collectively, the “Harkins”) offered to buy property from Carol Shenck (“Shenck”) for the purpose of subdividing it and developing a subdivision. Burke Engineering (“Burke”) was hired by the Harkins to perform necessary prep work related to the development of the property. So while the work performed by Burke was integral to, and resulted in, improvements to the property (plat of subdivision, etc.), at the time that the work was done under a contract with Harkins, the property was still owned by Shenck. Eventually, the Harkins closed and development began according to the work done by Burke.

Heritage Bank of Central Illinois (“Heritage”) financed the purchase of the property in 2007 and held a Mortgage Lien. But thanks to the Great Recession, work stopped in 2008 and the Harkins failed to pay Burke (or anyone else). As 2008 dragged on however, Burke had still not been paid and eventually the company filed a Mechanics Lien against property – which by this time was owned by the Harkins (the “Lien”). In response, the Harkins filed Bankruptcy. This left Burke to foreclose its lien or not get paid at all.

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