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Grace v. Howlett





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL A. COVELLI, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 25, 1972.

By Public Act 77-1430, which became effective January 1, 1972, the General Assembly added article XXXV to the Illinois Insurance Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 73, pars. 1065.150 through 1065.163.) This action was instituted in the circuit court of Cook County by the plaintiff, Michael J. Grace, against Michael J. Howlett, Auditor of Public Accounts, and other State officers, to enjoin them from expending funds appropriated for the enforcement of the new article. Evidence was heard, and the court found that certain provisions of the new article violated the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Illinois. An injunction was issued and the defendants appealed directly to this court under Rule 302(a)(1). Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110A, par. 302(a)(1).

Article XXXV is entitled "Compensation of Automobile Accident Victims." Section 608 is a key provision of the article. In the severability clause (section 613), the General Assembly has provided that "Section 608, or any part thereof, of this Article is expressly made inseverable." Section 608 relates to the amount of damages which may be recovered in actions for accidental injuries arising out of the use of motor vehicles. In essence it provides that (except in cases of death, dismemberment, permanent disability or serious disfigurement) the amount recoverable for pain, suffering, mental anguish and inconvenience "may not exceed the total of a sum equal to 50 percent of the reasonable medical treatment expenses of the claimant if and to the extent that the total of such reasonable expenses is $500 or less, and a sum equal to the amount of such reasonable expenses if any, in excess of $500."

Section 609 deals with the procedures to be followed in certain cases arising out of the use of automobiles. It directs that in counties with a population of 200,000 or more inhabitants, "the Supreme Court of this State shall, by Rules of Court, provide for the arbitration of all cases where the cause of action arose out of the operation, ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle and where the amount in controversy may not exceed $3,000, exclusive of interest and costs." Section 609 also provides that in all other counties "the Supreme Court of this State may, by Rules of Court, provide for the arbitration of all" such cases. It requires "[t]he Court" to maintain a list of attorneys who have agreed to serve as arbitrators and requires that "[t]he Court Rules shall provide" that cases must be assigned to a single arbitrator "in reasonable rotation. Any party to arbitration may, upon payment of the additional costs involved therein, request that the arbitration hearing be before a panel of 3 arbitrators * * *." The award "must be entered by the Court in its record of judgments, and has the effect of a judgment upon the parties unless reversed upon appeal." Either party "may appeal from an award of arbitration to the Court in which the case was pending * * *." The party who appeals "must pay all costs that may have accrued in such suit or action. * * * All appeals must be de novo both as to the law and the facts."

Section 600 of the article relates to insurance. It provides that every policy insuring against liability for "accidental bodily injury or death suffered by any person arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of any private passenger automobile registered or principally garaged in this State and insuring 5 or less private passenger automobiles, must provide coverage affording payment of the following minimum benefits to the named insured and members of his family residing in his household when injured in any motor vehicle accident, and to other persons injured while occupying such insured automobile as guest passengers or while using it with the permission of the named insured, and to pedestrians struck by the automobile in accidents occurring within this State * * *." The specified benefits include payment of all reasonable and necessary medical, hospital and funeral services incurred within one year from the date of the accident, "subject to a limit of $2,000 per person;" payment of 85% of the income lost as a result of total disability, "subject to a limit of $150 per week for 52 weeks per person;" payment in reimbursement of expenses incurred for essential services ordinarily performed by an injured person who is not an income or wage producer, "subject to a limit of $12 per day for 365 days per person injured." A "private passenger automobile" is defined to mean "a sedan, station wagon or jeep-type automobile not used as a public livery conveyance for passengers, nor rented to others, and includes any other 4 wheel motor vehicle used as a utility automobile, pickup truck, sedan delivery truck or panel truck which is not used primarily in the occupation, profession or business of the insured."

Section 601 deals with uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicle coverage, and section 602 with the exclusions permitted under an insurance policy. Sections 603 and 604 require prompt payment of the benefits described in section 600 and they also contain provisions designed to guard against duplication of payments or reimbursement of the same loss. Section 605 deals with subrogation and with arbitration between insurance companies.

Section 610 is concerned with false, fraudulent or exaggerated claims for personal injury or damage to property. It provides that anyone who obtains or attempts to obtain money or other things of value by false representation "may, upon conviction, if the sum so obtained or attempted to be obtained is less than $100, be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned in a penal institution other than the penitentiary for not more than one year, or both," and that if the amount is $100 or more, said person "may, upon conviction, be fined not less than an amount equal to 3 times the sum or sums so obtained or attempted to be obtained or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both." Section 610 also provides that if the person convicted of a violation acted under the authority of any license issued "by any unit of State or local government acting pursuant to the Constitution of the State of Illinois, the court must further order the immediate temporary suspension of the license or licenses involved and issued and must mandate an immediate inquiry by the body or bodies charged with the responsibility and duty of issuing or supervising the licenses to determine whether the licenses should be permanently suspended or revoked."

Section 611 provides for medical disclosure by any person claiming damages for personal injuries arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or benefits therefor under an insurance policy, and section 612 authorizes the Director of Insurance to promulgate regulations necessary to implement the provisions of the article which relate to insurance. It continues: "He also has the authority to approve schedules of reasonable maximum benefit payments for specified medical services which companies may incorporate into their policies of basic mandatory or optional excess coverages herein prescribed."

The defendants describe article XXXV as "the culmination in Illinois of a growing public demand for a change in the way society deals with the enormous legal, social and economic problems spawned by motor vehicle crashes." They say that "one of the major evils of the present system of compensating auto accident victims is the small personal injury suit," and that "[w]hile opinions may differ on solutions, those who have studied the problem generally agree that there are three major defects in the existing system of compensating victims of auto crashes: (1) it results in inequitable distribution of compensation among personal injury claimants; (2) it is excessively and needlessly expensive and inefficient; and (3) it makes excessively burdensome demands upon the limited resources of the judicial system." These are the evils that article XXXV is said to have been intended to eliminate. We have been referred by both parties to numerous statistical analyses as well as to literature concerning relationships between court congestion and litigation stemming from automobile accidents. See, e.g., Motor Vehicle Crash Losses and Their Compensation in the United States, a study by the United States Department of Transportation; James and Law, Compensation for Auto Accident Victims (1952), 26 Conn. Bar Journal 70; Morris and Paul, The Financial Impact of Automobile Accidents (1962), 110 U. Pa. L. Rev. 913; Conard et al. Automobile Accident Costs and Payments — Studies in the Economics Of Injury Reparation (1964); R. Keeton and J. O'Connell, Basic Protection for the Traffic Victim (1965).

We assume that the problems described by the defendant do exist. But as has been pointed out, the fact that a problem "does exist does not permit arbitrary or unrelated means of meeting it to be adopted." (Heimgaertner v. Benjamin Electric Manufacturing Co. (1955), 6 Ill.2d 152.) We turn therefore to a consideration of the numerous constitutional objections that have been leveled at article XXXV. Violations of due process and equal protection under both State and Federal constitutions are asserted, as well as violations of the jury trial provisions of section 13 of article I, the separation of powers provision of section 1 of article II, and the provisions of sections 8 and 13 of article IV of the constitution of Illinois.

It is important to note at the outset that sections 600 and 608 are both aimed at a single problem. They are part of a single act directed toward evils in the existing method of disposing of personal injury claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents. That singleness of purpose is emphasized by the severability section (section 613), the effect of which is a legislative declaration that without the limitations upon recovery established in section 608, the other provisions of article XXXV would not have been enacted.

Despite the unified purpose of the two provisions, the limitations placed by section 608 upon the amounts recoverable for pain, suffering, and the like apply to all persons who are injured by automobiles, and not just to those injured persons who are covered by a "first party" policy under section 600. In other words, article XXXV requires that only "private passenger automobiles" must be covered by the policies issued under section 600, but it prohibits the award of general damages in excess of section 608 limitations, to all persons injured by any kind of motor vehicle, whether covered by such a policy or not.

The category of private passenger vehicles, with respect to which coverage is required to be extended under section 600, is not clearly defined. The exclusion of rented cars and livery vehicles is specific, but the statutory definition also apparently excludes any 4-wheel motor vehicle which is "used primarily in the occupation, profession or business of the insured." The extent to which the automobiles of doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects and salesmen, for example, are included in the provisions of section 600 is uncertain.

The effect of the classifications created by article XXXV may be visualized if we assume that two pedestrians each suffer an identical injury when struck by a negligently operated automobile: A, who is struck by a car which is included within the first party coverage category of section 600 gets prompt payment of his medical and other expenses as provided by section 600; B, who is struck by a car which is not included within the enumerated categories in section 600 does not receive any payment under section 600. In addition, the opportunity to recover damages in an action at law which B had prior to the enactment of article XXXV is sharply curtailed by the restrictions upon recovery which are contained in section 608. Furthermore, his right to have his case tried before a jury may be clogged by the mandatory arbitration provisions of section 609, a matter which will subsequently be discussed in detail.

Section 22 of article IV of the 1870 constitution of Illinois prohibited the enactment of a special law in many enumerated instances, and concluded: "In all other cases where a general law can be made applicable, no special law shall be enacted." The 1970 constitution includes, for the first time, an equal-protection clause in article I, section 2. The 1970 constitution also provides, in article IV, section 13: "The General Assembly shall pass no special or local law when a general law is or can be made applicable. Whether a general law is or can be made applicable shall be a matter for judicial determination." While these two provisions of the 1970 constitution cover much of the same terrain, they are not duplicates, as the commentary to section 13 of article IV points out: "In many cases, the protection provided by Section 13 is also provided by the equal protection clause of Article I, Section 2." (S.H.A., Const. of 1970, Art. IV, sec. 13, at 244.) Indeed, as pointed out in the consolidated cases reported as Bridgewater v. Hotz (1972), 51 Ill.2d 103, the new section 13 of article IV has increased judicial responsibility for determining whether a general law "is or can be made applicable."

Unless this court is to abdicate its constitutional responsibility to determine whether a general law can be made applicable, the available scope for legislative experimentation with special legislation is limited, and this court cannot rule that the legislature is free to enact special legislation simply because "reform may take one step at a time." (See, Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. (1955), 348 U.S. 483, 99 L.Ed. 563, 75 S.Ct. 461.) The constitutional test under section 13 of article IV is whether a general law can be made applicable, and in this case that question must receive an affirmative answer.

There are many purposes for which the obvious differences between private passenger automobiles, buses, taxicabs, trucks and other vehicles would justify different legislative treatment. But the determination of the amount to be recovered by persons injured by those vehicles and the conditions governing that recovery is not one of those purposes. What was true of the municipal tort liability statutes involved in Harvey v. Clyde Park District (1964), 32 Ill.2d 60, is true here; those classified are those who suffer the accidental injuries as well as those who inflict them. There we said: "Many of the activities that frequently give rise to tort liability are common to all governmental units. The operation of automobiles is an obvious example. From the perspective of the injured party, or from the point of view of ability to insure against liability for negligent operation, there is no reason why one who is injured by a park district truck should be barred from recovery, while one who is injured by a city or village truck is allowed to recover, and one injured by a school district truck is allowed to recover only within a prescribed limit. And to the extent that recovery is permitted or denied on an arbitrary basis, a special privilege is granted in violation of section 22 of article IV." 32 Ill.2d at 65. See also, Grasse v. Dealer's Transport Co. (1952), 412 Ill. 179.

Delaney v. Badame (1971), 49 Ill.2d 168, which sustained the guest statute, does not require a different conclusion. The statute involved in that case required a greater degree of fault than ordinary negligence before one who had voluntarily become a guest passenger in an automobile could recover for injuries that he suffered. The same requirement was not made applicable to guests in boats or in private homes. But in that case the legislature could rationally have found relevant differences in the circumstances under which the various voluntary relationships of host and guest were created which justified the imposition of differing standards of care.

The trial court held that section 608 was invalid because the general damages recoverable by an injured party were based upon his reasonable expenses for medical services. The court found that substantial differences existed between the cost of medical services provided for the poor and for the wealthy, and also between different geographical areas in the State. The trial court therefore held that section 608 would result in an irrational discrimination against economically disadvantaged persons and those who received less expensive ...

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