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POLLION v. LEWIS

November 25, 1970

ANDREW POLLION ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JOHN W. LEWIS, SECRETARY OF STATE OF ILLINOIS,[FN*] ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Before Cummings, Circuit Judge, Robson, Chief District Judge, and Perry, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cummings, Circuit Judge.

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs initiated this class action on behalf of themselves and all persons whose drivers' licenses or vehicle registrations have been revoked due to the operation of the Illinois Financial Responsibility Law. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7A-101 et seq.*fn1 They seek a declaration that certain provisions of that statute are unconstitutional on their face and as applied.*fn2 They request the restoration of their drivers' licenses and vehicle registrations. Finally, they ask that defendants Lewis and Cellini, state officials charged with administration and enforcement of the statute, be enjoined from future enforcement of these provisions. Plaintiffs moved for the convention of a three-judge court in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 2281, and on July 15, 1969, that motion was granted. At the same time, defendants' cross motion for dismissal of the complaint was denied. Pollion v. Powell, 47 F.R.D. 331 (N.D.Ill. 1969).

The relevant facts alleged in this complaint are not complicated and may be briefly summarized. Each of the original representative plaintiffs was himself involved or owned a motor vehicle which was involved in an automobile accident. Intervening plaintiff Kalec alleges that he was falsely accused of operating a vehicle which supposedly struck a pedestrian. In each instance another party in the accident filed an accident report with the Department of Public Works and Buildings claiming injury or damages exceeding $100. No plaintiff was adjudged liable for damages arising from the accidents, and in four instances, police reports concerning the accidents indicate unequivocally that they or persons driving their cars were victims of the accidents rather than culpable parties. None of the plaintiffs carried automobile liability insurance, although each was licensed to operate on Illinois highways and several owned properly registered automobiles.

As a result of their involvement in the accidents and their lack of insurance, each plaintiff was ordered to post security, in amounts varying from $600 to $2,300. Each plaintiff was also required to supply proof of future financial responsibility. They were unable to satisfy both of these demands, and their inability resulted in suspension of their driving privileges. They have all requested hearings before the appropriate state agencies, and in each instance they were either ignored or their request was denied. As a result of their inability to operate a motor vehicle legally, they claim to have suffered irreparable harm due to their loss of needed mobility.

The current Financial Responsibility Law follows a long succession of similar statutes in Illinois as well as in other states which have attempted to cope with the many difficult problems posed by automobile traffic. See Kesler v. Department of Public Safety, etc., of Utah, 369 U.S. 153, 82 S.Ct. 807, 7 L.Ed.2d 641. The rules governing financial responsibility of automobile owners and operators comprise one portion of the comprehensive Illinois vehicle code directed toward public health and welfare in automobile traffic. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2. Complex licensing and registration requirements protect the public against imprudent and unsafe motorists. The Financial Responsibility Law, on the other hand, is directed to preventing or limiting the financial and economic hardships which often attend highway accidents. This measure encourages and tests the adequacy of financial resources available for coverage of potential losses resulting from accidents. The statutory scheme is thus addressed both to the protection of those already involved in accidents and to prevention of financial irresponsibility among parties to future mishaps.

The basic provisions of the statute are the requirements of security deposits in the event of an accident and proof of financial responsibility for the future. Satisfaction of these requirements is enforced by the sanction of suspension of operator's license and vehicle registration.

The specific administrative machinery of the statute begins when the Department of Public Works and Buildings receives the report of an accident involving death, personal injury, or property damage in excess of $100.*fn3 If the Department finds that death, personal injury, or more than $250 damage to property has been sustained, the Department must determine whether the particular owner or operator is one to whom the provisions of the Act apply. Section 7-202 expressly excepts from the requirements of the Financial Responsibility Law a wide range of vehicle owners and operators who present no immediate threat of financial irresponsibility, including those with adequate existing insurance or bonding arrangements and those for whom there is no realistic contingency of liability resulting from the particular accident.*fn4

The Financial Responsibility Law relieves a motorist or vehicle owner from his obligation to post security where it is not necessary to cover contingent liability. Thus a person is released when the Secretary receives proof of a release from liability (Section 7-206(A)), a covenant not to sue (Section 7-206(B)), evidence of a final adjudication of non-liability (Section 7-207), a written agreement among the parties to the accident to pay all claims for injuries or damages in installments (Section 7-208), or payment of a judgment arising from the accident (Section 7-209). Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, § 7-206 et seq. Finally, if the Department's security demand is excessive, Section 7-212 permits a redetermination and reduction of the amount and a refund of the remainder of the deposit. III.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-212.

The requirement of proof of future financial responsibility operates independently as well as in conjunction with the security requirement. The statute ties this enforcement feature to the administrative machinery activated by the remedial or protective security requirements. Release from the obligation to deposit security thus does not relieve the motorist or registrant from the burden of demonstrating future financial responsibility. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, §§ 7-206 through 7-210. As required under Article III of the Act, "proof of financial responsibility for the future" means

  "* * * proof of ability to respond in damages for
  any liability thereafter incurred resulting from
  the ownership, maintenance, use or operation of a
  motor vehicle for bodily injury to or death of
  any person in the amount of $10,000, and subject
  to said limit for any one person injured or
  killed, in the amount of $20,000 for bodily
  injury to or death of two or more persons in any
  one accident and for damage to property in the
  amount of $5,000 resulting from any one accident.
  Such proof in said amounts shall be furnished for
  each motor vehicle registered by every person
  required to furnish such proof." Ill.Rev.Stat.
  1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-302, as referred to in §
  7-204(C).

According to Section 7-314 and the following applicable provisions of Article III, this proof may be furnished by properly filing with the Secretary of State an acceptable certificate of motor vehicle liability insurance, a duly executed liability bond, or by depositing equivalent money or securities with the State Treasurer. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-314 et seq.

Loss of vehicular privileges results from failure to fulfill either or both of the statute's financial responsibility requirements. Within 30 days after receipt of the Section 7-201 certificates and 10 days after giving adequate notice, the Secretary of State automatically suspends the license and/or registration of any operator or vehicle owner who has not filed security and proof of future responsibility. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-205.

The statute also contains provisions for administrative notices to affected individuals and hearing for aggrieved persons upon their demand. Section 7-201.1 requires the Department of Public Works and Buildings to supply detailed information to the security depositor of the nature of the potential claims upon which the security requirement is based. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-201.1. Not less than 10 days prior to the effective date of any proposed suspension under Section 7-205, the Secretary of State is again required to send notice to the individual of the impending suspension which must include a statement of the amount of security demanded.*fn5 Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-205(B). The aggrieved motorist may, moreover, obtain an administrative hearing upon request to review an order or act of either the Department of Public Works and Buildings or the Secretary of State. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 95 1/2, § 7-101; see also, Ch. 95 1/2, § 2-117.

Finally, according to Section 7-102, suspensions under Section 7-205 are subject to judicial review in any appropriate Circuit Court of the State as provided in the "Administrative Review Act" of Illinois. Ill.Rev.Stat. 1969, Ch. 110, ยง 264 et seq. If lawfully ordered, the suspension may still be terminated in accordance with the provisions of the Financial Responsibility Law. Section 7-211 permits the operator or owner whose privileges have been suspended to regain them by satisfying the security and proof requirements ordered. After a year from the date the license or registration has been received by the Secretary following suspension, the applicant may terminate the suspension if he files an affidavit stating that no action for ...


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