Illinois Appellate Court Affirms Trial Court in Implied Right of Action Case

Mary Perry Carmichael was an employee at Union Pacific Railroad Co. (UPRC).  In that capacity, she was being transported by Professional Transportation Inc. (PTI) in a van when it was hit by a vehicle driven by Dwayne Bell. Carmichael filed a lawsuit against UPRC, PTI and Bell; the suits against UPRC and PTI were dismissed.  Carmichael settled with Bell for $20,000, the maximum liability coverage under his auto insurance policy.

Carmichael also filed a declaratory judgment suit in chancery against PTI, UPRC and ACE American Insurance Co., PTI’s insurer, alleging that PTI was legally responsible for her injury because it chose not to carry the statutory mandated amount of insurance in violation of Section 8-101(c) of the Illinois Vehicle Code.

PTI argued that Section 8-101(c) provided no civil remedy for such a violation and moved to dismiss on this basis. The trial court found that the statute implied a private right of action and denied the motion. PTI also filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment, seeking Section 8-101(c) to be declared unconstitutional, but this was dismissed.

PTI appealed the dismissal, and the appellate court held that no private right of action is listed under Section 8-101(c), rendering Carmichael’s complaint improper and PTI’s counterclaim moot.

Carmichael appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which found that the appellate court had erred in ruling on the merits of the underlying complaint. The high court concluded that PTI’s counterclaim was an affirmative defense, sending the case back to the trial court for the appropriate proceedings.

Before the trial court, PTI moved for summary judgment arguing that Section 8-101(c) of the vehicle code does not grant a private right of action. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. Carmichael appealed.

On appeal, it was clear there was no dispute that PTI chose not to carry the requisite insurance for a contract carrier under Section 8-101(c).  Carmichael argued that, absent a private right of action, there was no adequate remedy for violations to the statute.

PTI argued that the statute included a number of remedies, such as suspending vehicle’s registration, plates, or stickers as well as a potential misdemeanor conviction with up to a year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines.

Carmichael asserted that these were not adequate remedies because they were not enforced, noting that PTI lacked appropriate insurance and faced neither consequence.

The Illinois Appellate Court disagreed. It held that whether a particular party had been in fact sanctioned under a statute is not relevant to whether the provided remedy in the statute is adequate, since “every implied-right-of-action suit involves a defendant’s alleged failure to comply with the statute” so that cannot serve as evidence that the remedy at hand was not adequate. Whether a remedy is adequate cannot depend on whether it has been applied to the defendant already, as it is not a fact-specific inquiry, but a determination of law, so the trial court granting summary judgment was appropriate. Accordingly, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the trial judge.

Mary Perry Carmichael v. Professional Transportation, Inc., 2021 IL App (1st) 201386 (Aug. 31, 2021).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accident lawsuits, truck accident cases, catastrophic injury lawsuits, and motorcycle accident cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 45 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Elgin, St. Charles, Carol Stream, Crystal Lake, Naperville, Orland Park, Homewood, New Lenox, Arlington Heights, Grayslake, Chicago (Little Village, Chinatown, Brighton Park, Chicago Lawn, Washington Park, Hyde Park, Wrigleyville, Elmwood Park, Calumet Heights, Beverly, Roscoe Village, Streeterville, Near North Side, East Village, Ukrainian Village, Palmer Square), Oak Park, Melrose Park, Itasca, and Bloomingdale, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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