JUSTICE BRESLIN delivered the opinion of the court:
The issue on appeal is whether a party to a construction contract
waives its contractual right to compel arbitration when it files
a mechanics lien then requests arbitration, but subsequently
files an action pursuant to section 34 of the Mechanics Lien
Act (Act) (770 ILCS 60/34 (2000)) and immediately filed a stay
thereof. We hold that under these circumstances it does not waive
its right to arbitrate the dispute.
In this case, Central Illinois Construction, Inc., was the
contractor and Dennis La Hood, d/b/a ATL Enterprises, Ltd., was
the property owner who hired Central Illinois to construct a
shopping center. When a dispute arose regarding the project,
the contractor filed a mechanics lien against the owner's property.
It then filed under the Illinois Uniform Arbitration Act (710
ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 2000)) to arbitrate the dispute as provided
for by its contract with the owner. Pursuant to section 34 of
the Act (770 ILCS 60/34 (West 2000)), the owner filed a written
demand that suit be commenced to enforce the lien. Section 34
provides owners with this right and, if demanded, the person
claiming the lien must commence the suit within 30 days of the
written demand or the lien is forfeited. See 770 ILCS 60/34 (West
2000). In compliance with the statute, the contractor filed suit
on its lien but immediately filed a motion to stay court proceedings
and compel arbitration pursuant to the contract.
The owner now complains that the contractor waived and abandoned
its contractual right to arbitrate when it later filed the mechanics
lien action pursuant to section 34 of the Act. It asserts that
the contractor acted inconsistently with the arbitration clause
in the parties' agreement by attempting to adjudicate the same
issues in two different forums and that the trial court's decision
allowing arbitration unfairly requires it to incur the expense
of defending two actions which will severely encumber the property.
In support of its position, the owner relies on the following
cases in which the court found that arbitration was waived: Schroeder
Murchie Laya Associates, Ltd. v. 1000 West Lofts, LLC., 319 Ill.
App. 3d 1089, 746 N.E.2d 294 (2001); State Farm Mutual Automobile
Insurance Co. v. George Hyman Construction Co., 306 Ill. App.
3d 874, 715 N.E.2d 749 (1999); and Yates v. Doctor's Associates,
Inc., 193 Ill. App. 3d 431, 549 N.E.2d 1010 (1990). In response,
the contractor argues that it did not act inconsistently with
the arbitration clause because it requested arbitration before
it was forced by the owner to prosecute the mechanics lien claim
and because it sought an immediate stay of the claim pending
arbitration. As the facts of this case are undisputed and only
the trial court's legal conclusion is at issue, we will consider
this matter de novo. Hawrelak v. Marine Bank, Springfield, 316
Ill. App. 3d 175, 735 N.E.2d 1066 (2000). But see Schroeder,
319 Ill. App. 3d at 1092, 746 N.E.2d at 296 (discussing the standard
of review of a trial court's determination of whether a party's
actions constitute a waiver of arbitration).
A contractual right to compel arbitration can be waived like
any other contractual right. Kostakos v. KSN Joint Venture No.
1, 142 Ill. App. 3d 533, 491 N.E.2d 1322 (1986). Waiver occurs
when a party acts in a manner that is inconsistent with the arbitration
clause in an agreement and indicates an abandonment of that right.
Atkins v. Rustic Woods Partners, 171 Ill. App. 3d 373, 525 N.E.2d
551 (1988). Waiver also occurs when a party submits arbitrable
issues to a court for decision. Bishop v. We Care Hair Development
Corp., 316 Ill. App. 3d 1182, 738 N.E.2d 610 (2000). Although
the right to compel arbitration can be waived, Illinois courts
favor using arbitration as a method of settling disputes and
disfavor a finding that a party has waived its right to arbitrate.
Kostakos, 142 Ill. App. 3d at 536, 491 N.E. 2d at 1325. Thus,
a public policy concern that favors arbitration will outweigh
a concern regarding judicial economy, duplication of effort,
or inconsistent results. Board of Managers of the Courtyards
at the Woodlands Condominium Ass'n v. IKO Chicago, Inc., 183
Ill. 2d 66, 697 N.E.2d 727 (1998).
We hold that the trial court did not err when it determined
that the contractor in this case continued to have a right to
compel arbitration. The fact that the contractor first sought
arbitration and then filed the mechanics lien action is not inconsistent
with the arbitration clause in the agreement and does not indicate
an intent to abandon that right. Rather, the filing of the mechanics
lien sensibly protected the contractor's interest in the property
and was acted upon only because the owner pursued an action under
section 34 of the Act. By immediately seeking a stay of the mechanics
lien action pending arbitration, the contractor preserved its
right to compel arbitration.
In reaching our conclusion, we note that the cases relied
upon by the owner are distinguishable from the instant case as
they present very different fact patterns. In Schroeder, 319
Ill. App. 3d at 1098, 746 N.E.2d at 302, an architectural contractor
waived its contractual right to arbitrate when it opposed a condominium
association's prior motion to compel arbitration, failed to file
for arbitration when given the opportunity to do so by the court,
and engaged in discovery. In State Farm, 306 Ill. App. 3d at
885, 715 N.E.2d at 758, a contractor waived arbitrable claims
against subcontractors by filing a summary judgment motion against
them while arbitration was stayed. In Yates, 193 Ill. App. 3d
at 440, 549 N.E.2d at 1016, a franchisor waived its right to
compel arbitration under a franchise agreement when its agent
initiated forcible entry and detainer actions against franchisees
as part of the same dispute.
In each of these cases, the claimant acted inconsistently
with an intent to pursue arbitration and thereby abandoned its
right. Here, the contractor first sought arbitration and then
filed the mechanics lien action entirely in response to the owner's
statutory 30-day demand, and the contractor avoided submitting
any substantive issue to the court by requesting an immediate
stay. Thus, the mechanics lien action complemented the request
for arbitration, and there was no inconsistency or abandonment.
Our decision is bolstered by the language of the contract
which provided that the parties agreed that all disputes would
be decided by arbitration in accordance with the Construction
Industry Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association
(AAA). See AAA, Construction Industry Arbitration Rules (July
1, 2001). Rule 51(a) of those rules states: "No judicial
proceeding by a party relating to the subject matter of the arbitration
shall be deemed a waiver of the party's right to arbitrate."
AAA, Construction Industry Arbitration Rules, R. 51(a) (July
1, 2001). Illinois courts have consistently applied this clause
literally and rejected arguments of waiver. See State Farm, 306
Ill. App. 3d at 884, 715 N.E.2d at 757. The inclusion of the
specific reference to the AAA Construction Industry Arbitration
Rules, which includes Rule 51(a), indicates that the parties
intended to favor arbitration and, as such, we will not waive
that right lightly.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the circuit court
of Tazewell County is affirmed.
LYTTON, P.J., and SLATER, J., concur.