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Newland v. Budget Rent-A-Car Systems

February 02, 2001

GARY A. NEWLAND, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BUDGET RENT-A-CAR SYSTEMS, INC., BUDGET RENT-A-CAR CORPORATION, AND BARGAIN AUTO RENTAL, INC., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 98 CH 10336 The Honorable Lester D. Foreman, Presiding Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Buckley

This is an appeal from the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's complaint with prejudice. Two issues are raised: (1) whether, at the time of the instant controversy, car rental companies were permitted to sell automobile insurance without a license; and (2) if car rental companies were not so required, whether plaintiff sufficiently stated a claim for relief.

I. BACKGROUND

In November 1998, plaintiff Gary Newland filed an amended complaint against Budget Rent-A-Car Corporation and its related entities. According to the amended complaint, in October 1997, plaintiff rented a car from Bargain (a Budget licensee). As part of the rental contract, plaintiff purchased a supplemental "per-sonal accident and cargo insurance" (PACI) policy.

The amended complaint does not allege that plaintiff was involved in any sort of accident or that he attempted to make a claim pursuant to the PACI policy. Nor does it allege that defen-dants misrepresented the scope of the PACI policy's coverage.

The central theory to plaintiff's complaint is that defendants were not licensed to sell insurance, as required under section 492.2 of the Illinois Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/492.2 (West 1998)). Relying on this contention, plaintiff pled two counts. Count I alleged that defendants' misconduct resulted in unjust enrichment. Specifically, plaintiff contended that defendants illegally sold PACI and the profits therefrom (i.e., the money defendants collected exceeded the cost of such insurance) constituted unjust enrichment. Count I requested that the trial court deem plaintiff entitled to a return of the PACI premium. Plaintiff based count II of the amended complaint under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (Consumer Fraud Act) (815 ILCS 505/1 et seq. (West 1998)). Count II alleged that defendants engaged in deceptive business practices by selling insurance without a license. Count II further alleged that such insurance was "of minimal value" and "duplicative of insurance commonly held by renters." Count II's prayer for relief sought damages and injunctive relief.

Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that it failed to state a cause of action. Defendants argued, inter alia, that section 492.2 of the Insurance Code did not apply and, in the alternative, that plaintiff failed to state a claim under unjust enrichment and Consumer Fraud Act theories. In March 1999, the trial court granted defendants' motion, concluding that section 492.2 did not apply. The court allowed plaintiff 28 days to refile. However, plaintiff elected to stand on his amended complaint. In May 1999, the trial court dismissed plaintiff's case with prejudice pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)).

Plaintiff now appeals, arguing that (1) car rental companies, at the time of the controversy, were required to obtain a license in order to sell supplemental auto insurance; and (2) he sufficiently stated causes of action under an unjust enrichment theory and under the Consumer Fraud Act.

II. ANALYSIS

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure, we interpret all well-pled allegations and supporting documents in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d 179, 189 (1997). Only where the plaintiffs fail to allege facts supporting a cause of action should the court grant the motion to dismiss. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d at 189. Our review of the trial court's determination of a motion to dismiss is de novo. In re Chicago Flood Litigation, 176 Ill. 2d at 189.

A. Whether Car Rental Companies Need Be Licensed

We first address plaintiff's argument that section 492.2 of the Insurance Code (215 ILCS 5/492.2 (West 1998)) requires a car rental company to hold a license to sell supplemental rental insurance. *fn1 Defendants disagree and contend that section 305(f) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/6-305(f) (West 1998)) pre-cludes such a finding.

The principal rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. Solich v. George & Anna Portes Cancer Prevention Center of Chicago, Inc., 158 Ill. 2d 76, 81 (1994).

To determine the legislature's intent, courts first look to the statute's language. Zekman v. Direct American Marketers, Inc., 182 Ill. 2d 359, 368-69 (1998). Courts accord the statute's language a plain and commonly understood meaning. R.L. Polk & Co. v. Ryan, 296 Ill. App. 3d 132, 140 (1998). If possi-ble, courts must give effect to every word, clause, and sentence and may not read a statute so as to render any part inoperative, superfluous, or insignificant. Bauer v. H.H. Hall Construction Co., 140 Ill. App. 3d 1025, 1028 (1986). Courts must not depart from a statute's plain language by reading into it exceptions, limitations, or conditions the legislature did not express. (See Kraft, Inc. v. Edgar, 138 Ill. 2d 178, 189 (1990)). Statutes should be evaluated as a whole and each provision should be construed in connection with every other section. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. v. Illinois ...


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