APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT
539 N.E.2d 1306, 183 Ill. App. 3d 1098, 132 Ill. Dec. 500 1989.IL.852
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Fredrick O. Henzi, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE DUNN delivered the opinion of the court. REINHARD, J., concurs. JUSTICE NASH, Dissenting.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE DUNN
Plaintiff, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, as subrogee of Christopher DiNardo, appeals from the trial court's order vacating a default judgment against defendant, Delores Lamela. Plaintiff contends the trial court was without jurisdiction to vacate the default judgment because defendant failed to comply with the statutory requirements of section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 2-1401). Defendant has not filed a brief in this matter; however, we choose to decide the merits under the guidelines in First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp. (1976), 63 Ill. 2d 128, 133.
Plaintiff filed a complaint in negligence against defendant alleging that she negligently drove her car causing an accident. A summons was returned not served. The reason stated was defendant moved. Notice was served to the Secretary of State under the substituted service provision set out in section 10-301 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95 1/2, par. 10-301). That section provides for substituted service of process by serving the Illinois Secretary of State in cases where the claim arises from the use of a motor vehicle within Illinois and the defendant is a nonresident or subsequently becomes a nonresident. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95 1/2, par. 10-301.) As required by section 10-301(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code, plaintiff filed an affidavit of compliance with the statute which stated that defendant did not reside in Illinois; however, no facts were alleged to support this assertion. On November 26, 1986, defendant did not appear, and a default judgment was entered for $2,823.75.
On January 5, 1988, defendant filed pro se a motion entitled "Notice to Vacate." Defendant also filed pro se a notice of motion entitled "Reinstate." The motion stated in its entirety: "I moved to default defendant $2,823.75 [ sic ]." At the hearing on the motion January 26, 1988, the trial court sua sponte treated defendant's motion as a section 2-1401 motion under the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 110, par. 2-1401). The court heard defendant explain that she was not notified of any proceedings and did not become aware of the complaint or the default judgment against her until she learned that her driver's license was suspended. Defendant stated she was not at fault in the car accident, and she was not ticketed for the accident. Upon this representation, the court vacated the judgment, granting defendant 28 days to respond to the complaint. Plaintiff objected to the court's sua sponte treatment of the motion as a section 2-1401 petition. The objection was denied. On February 24, 1988, plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider which was denied. On March 14, 1988, plaintiff filed this appeal.
Plaintiff contends the court was without jurisdiction to decide a section 2 -- 1401 motion because a section 2 -- 1401 petition was not filed, and even assuming arguendo that a section 2 -- 1401 petition had been filed, there was improper notice under section 2 -- 1401. Before the merits of this issue can be addressed, we must first determine if we have jurisdiction to decide this issue. If neither party has questioned this court's jurisdiction, we have an obligation to raise it sua sponte and to dismiss the appeal if jurisdiction is lacking. (Archer Daniels Midland Co. v. Barth (1984), 103 Ill. 2d 536, 539.) For the reasons below, we find we have jurisdiction.
In order to resolve the question of our jurisdiction, it is necessary to first determine the nature of defendant's motion to the trial court. Defendant filed a pro se motion which stated in its entirety: "I moved to default defendant $2,823.75 [ sic ]." At the hearing defendant stated that she never received notice of the complaint against her. The trial court stated it was construing defendant's motion as a section 2 -- 1401 motion and vacated the judgment. While the trial court gave no reason for vacating the judgment, we believe it is clear that it did so based on defendant's assertion that she was not served notice. We are aware defendant at the hearing also asserted that she was not at fault, but we do not find that this assertion altered defendant's main contention that she was not served notice. See Mason v. Freeman National Printing Equipment Co. (1977), 51 Ill. App. 3d 581, 583-84.
In order to obtain jurisdiction over the person of defendant, proper service of summons is required. (Allied American Insurance Co. v. Mickiewicz (1984), 124 Ill. App. 3d 705, 707.) Where a court does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendant, any order it enters against her is void ab initio and subject to direct or collateral attack at any time. (R. W. Sawant & Co. v. Allied Programs Corp. (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 304, 309; People ex rel. McGraw v. Mogilles (1985), 136 Ill. App. 3d 67, 71.) Moreover, the restrictions of section 2 -- 1401 do not apply to or affect the right to relief from a void order; void judgments may be set aside by motion even after 30 days from rendition. (R. W. Sawant & Co. v. Allied Programs Corp. (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 304, 309; McGraw, 136 Ill. App. 3d at 72.) One method of attacking the personal jurisdiction of the court is to file a special appearance with a motion to quash service of summons. (R. W. Sawant & Co., 111 Ill. 2d at 310.) Since defendant's motion attacked the service of process, we find that the more accurate label for defendant's motion is a motion to quash service of process, and we will construe it as such.
In construing defendant's motion as a motion to quash service of process, we find we have jurisdiction of this appeal, though we recognize that the case law dealing with circumstances similar to this case is not in complete agreement. A review of the case law reveals one line of cases that holds an order quashing service is appealable (Brauer Machine & Supply Co. v. Parkhill Truck Co. (1943), 383 Ill. 569; Lombardi v. Lombardi (1961), 31 Ill. App. 2d 184; Connaughton v. Burke (1977), 46 Ill. App. 3d 602; In re Marriage of Kelso (1988), 173 Ill. App. 3d 746); however, another line of cases holds that where a judgment has been vacated because of improper service, it is not an appealable final judgment (Mabion v. Olds (1967), 84 Ill. App. 2d 291; Alexander v. Burke (1972), 6 Ill. App. 3d 919, 920; Stankowicz v. Gonzalez (1981), 103 Ill. App. 3d 828, 831).
In our opinion, the latter line of cases are in error. These cases held that an order vacating a judgment because of improper service was not appealable because it merely left the litigation pending. In these cases, the trial court vacated the judgment because of improper service and then granted defendants leave to answer. (Mabion, 84 Ill. App. 2d at 294; Alexander, 6 Ill. App. 3d at 920; Stankowicz, 103 Ill. App. 3d at 830.) We first point out that the lower court resolutions in these cases, as well as in the instant case, are awkward and procedurally incorrect. In vacating the judgments because of improper service, the lower courts either expressly or in effect quashed the service of process. (Mabion, 84 Ill. App. 2d at 294; Alexander, 6 Ill. App. 3d at 920; Stankowicz, 103 Ill. App. 3d at 830.) In so doing, the courts should not have required defendants to answer since there was no effective service requiring an answer. The appellate courts did not recognize this inconsistency. It is our belief that the appellate courts should not have dismissed the appeals for want of appellate jurisdiction since the lower courts were granting relief by quashing the service of process and the Illinois Supreme Court has held that an order granting a motion to quash service of process is an appealable judgment. (Brauer Machine & Supply Co. v. Parkhill Truck Co. (1943), 383 Ill. 569, 577-78.) In Brauer, the court stated:
"It is true, the order, in form, was only an order quashing the service of summons. It was not an order dismissing the suit, nor was it in the form of a final judgment on the merits. Regardless of its form, however, it was a complete and final Disposition of the case, based upon the Conclusion the court had reached that appellee was not amenable to the service of process in the manner in which the summons was served. On that issue it was ...