Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CH 15406, No. 00 CH 17453 Honorable Robert V. Boharic, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien
We consider whether the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Act (Act) (20 ILCS 3960/1 et seq. (West 2001)) requires plaintiffs to obtain a permit from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board (Board) before constructing a free-standing health and fitness center (center). We believe not and reverse the circuit court.
Palos Community Hospital (Hospital) filed an application for a permit pursuant to the Act to construct a free-standing health and fitness center on a parcel of land separate from the Hospital. The Board issued an initial denial of the Hospital's application, and the Hospital timely requested an administrative hearing. While its application was still pending before the Board, the Hospital restructured its corporate form and created a new parent corporation, the St. George Corporation, and a new wholly owned subsidiary of the parent corporation, the St. George Wellness Center. The St. George Wellness Center began construction of a center on the parcel of land without waiting for the Board's final decision on the permit application.
The Board then began a formal investigation into whether the construction of the center violated the permit requirement in the Act. The Board issued a subpoena duces tecum to the Hospital, St. George Corporation, and the St. George Wellness Center (collectively referred to as plaintiffs) for information and documents relating to the construction and financing of the center.
Plaintiffs then filed a six-count complaint in the circuit court against the Board. Count I sought a declaratory judgment that the plaintiffs were not required to comply with the Act's permit requirement. Count II sought a declaratory judgment that the Board has no authority to regulate or investigate the St. George Wellness Center or the St. George Corporation. Count III sought a declaratory judgment that the Board lacked the discretion to deny plaintiffs' application for a permit for the construction of the center. Count IV sought a declaratory judgment that the Board had violated the Hospital's rights to due process and equal protection. Count V sought a declaration that the Board's function violates due process. Count VI sought a declaration that the Board's denial of the permit application was arbitrary and capricious and against the manifest weight of the evidence.
The Board filed a complaint to temporarily restrain and enjoin plaintiffs from constructing the center until a valid permit was issued by the Board. The trial court consolidated the Board's complaint with the plaintiffs' declaratory judgment action and denied the Board's motion for a temporary restraining order. The Board then voluntarily dismissed its complaint.
Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on count I of their declaratory judgment action and sought to quash the subpoena duces tecum; the Board moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The trial court denied plaintiffs' summary judgment motion and their motion to quash the subpoena duces tecum, granted the Board's motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619, and directed plaintiffs to comply with the subpoena. Plaintiffs filed this timely appeal. The Illinois Hospital & Health Systems Association filed an amicus curiae brief in support of plaintiffs' appeal.
On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred in granting the Board's section 2-619 motion to dismiss and in denying plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment. Although the denial of a motion for summary judgment is not ordinarily appealable, such a denial is reviewable where, as here, the case is on appeal from a motion to dismiss which has been granted, there has been no evidentiary hearing or trial, and the party seeking such review has not prevented or avoided hearing or trial. Rose v. Pucinski, 321 Ill. App. 3d 92, 96 (2001). In reviewing the circuit court's grant of the Board's section 2-619 motion to dismiss and the denial of plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, the relevant issues on appeal are the same: (1) whether a genuine issue of material fact exists; and (2) whether the movant was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Guzman v. C.R. Epperson Construction, Inc., 196 Ill. 2d 391, 397 (2001). The standard of review is de novo. Guzman, 196 Ill. 2d at 397; 100 W. Monroe Partnership v. Carlson, 319 Ill. App. 3d 761, 766 (2001).
There are no genuine issues of material fact here. The issue is one of law: whether the Act requires plaintiffs to obtain a permit from the Board prior to constructing the center.
The resolution of this issue requires us to construe the Act. Because the construction of a statute is a question of law, the Board's construction of the Act is not binding and we may independently construe the Act. Metro Utility Co. v. Illinois Commerce Commission, 262 Ill. App. 3d 266, 273 (1994).
The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the true intent of the legislature. Augustus v. Estate of Somers, 278 Ill. App. 3d 90, 97 (1996). In determining legislative intent, a court should consider the statutory language first. Augustus, 278 Ill. App. 3d at 97. Where the language of the statute is clear, it will be given effect without resort to other aids for construction. Augustus, 278 Ill. App. 3d at 97. If the words used in a statute are ambiguous or if the meaning is unclear, the court may consider the legislative history as an aid to construction. Armstrong v. Hedlund Corp., 316 Ill. App. 3d 1097, 1106(2000).
First, when is a permit necessary?
Section 5 of the Act plainly and unambiguously provides that a permit is necessary only for construction of a "health care facility":
"After effective dates set by the State Board, no person shall construct, modify or establish a health care facility *** without first obtaining a permit or exemption from the State ...