Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 97MR0132
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McCULLOUGH
Honorable Donald M. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.
Defendant, Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company (Enterprise), is a self-insured rental car company. On April 14, 1996, Brian Page was involved in an accident while driving an Enterprise rental car. Two passengers, plaintiffs Christy Huff and Tiffany Lufkin, were injured in the accident. Huff and Lufkin filed suit against Page, and on March 4, 1997, a $400,000 default judgment was entered in their favor. Huff and Lufkin now seek to enforce that judgment against Enterprise. Enterprise argues it is relieved of any liability to Huff and Lufkin because it was not given notice of the suit against Page until after a default judgment was entered against him. Huff and Lufkin appeal the trial court's November 20, 1997, decision to grant Enterprise summary judgment. We affirm.
Enterprise is a rental car company that has filed a certificate of self-insurance with the Illinois Secretary of State to comply with its duty under the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) to provide proof of its financial responsibility (625 ILCS 5/9-101, 9-102 (West 1996)). On April 14, 1996, Page drove a car rented from Enterprise. Enterprise offered Page the option of purchasing personal accident insurance and supplemental liability protection or of presenting proof he was covered by his own insurer. Page provided proof of coverage and did not buy the supplemental protection. The rental contract provided, "[O]wners' financial responsibility is expressly limited to those applicable provisions of the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility laws of the state in which the vehicle is operating."
On the above date, Page was involved in an accident resulting in injuries to two passengers, plaintiffs Huff and Lufkin. On December 4, 1996, Huff and Lufkin filed suit against Page, and on March 4, 1997, a default judgment was entered against him, awarding Huff $150,000 and Lufkin $250,000. On May 27, 1997, Huff and Lufkin filed a complaint against Enterprise, seeking to hold it liable on the default judgment under Code.
On November 20, 1997, Huff and Lufkin filed a motion for summary judgment. On January 9, 1998, Enterprise filed a response arguing Page failed to give it notice of the suit, and the rental contract between Enterprise and Page indicated Page opted not to purchase optional supplemental liability protection. Finally, Enterprise argued any liability would be limited to $50,000 per claim and $100,000 per occurrence, the minimum coverage required by the Code when a rental car provider provides an insurance policy as proof of financial responsibility (625 ILCS 5/9-105 (West 1996)). Enterprise then filed affidavits indicating it had not received notice of the suit against Page.
On February 2, 1998, the trial court denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. On March 3, 1998, plaintiffs moved to reconsider the denial of summary judgment and for judgment on the pleadings. On April 21, 1998, this motion was denied.
On March 18, 1998, Enterprise filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint against Page seeking declaratory judgment that it was not obligated to satisfy the damage awards to Huff and Lufkin because it had not been given notice of the suit against Page. On May 6, 1998, Page filed a pro se answer stating he contacted Gary L. Clark, Frederic Nessler & Associates, attorney for plaintiffs Huff and Lufkin, who told him to send him a signed letter stating Enterprise was responsible and that Clark would forward the letter to Enterprise. Page indicated he followed these instructions. Page also indicated he informed Enterprise that he had wrecked its car.
On June 16, 1998, Enterprise filed a request for Page to admit that Huff was his girlfriend at the time of the accident and is the mother of his child. Enterprise requested Page to admit Clark told him to send him a note requesting Enterprise to defend Page in the suit, and Page did so. Enterprise requested Page to admit he never directly sent Enterprise a copy of the summons and complaint in the suit against him and he never directly informed Enterprise of the suit. Page did not respond to the request to admit.
On September 4, 1998, Enterprise filed a motion for summary judgment because it had not been given notice of the suit against Page. Attached to the motion were the affidavits indicating no notice was received, the rental contract, the third-party complaint against Page, Page's answer, the request for Page to admit facts, and a transcript of a deposition of Huff.
In her deposition, Huff stated she has lived with Page intermittently since March 1994, and he is the father of one of her children. Huff stated she and Lufkin were riding in the rental car at the time of the accident. Huff did not recall having any Discussions with anyone after the accident who stated he or she was working for or representing Enterprise. Huff and Page were not living together or communicating with each other in December 1996. Huff knew Page wrote a letter to Enterprise and gave it to Clark. Huff identified the unsigned letter, which stated:
"Dear Enterprise, I feel that it is your responsibility to pay this bill. Thank you."
Huff did not know of any other effort by Page to tell Enterprise he had been in an accident or of the suit against him. She had not spoken with Page about whether he told Enterprise of the suit.
On October 13, 1998, Huff and Lufkin filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing Enterprise was given notice, no notice was required, and Enterprise was obligated by the certificate of self-insurance to satisfy the default judgment. Attached to the motion was an affidavit from Arlene Raymer, Clark's legal secretary, stating Clark sent the summons and complaint and Page's hand-printed note to Enterprise. The affidavit identified a copy of the letter and the envelope addressed to Enterprise. The envelope has a date stamp, from Clark's postage meter, of January 6, 1997. Also attached to the motion was an affidavit from Clark stating he told Page to send him a short ...