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World Painting Company, LLC v. Joseph Costigan

March 29, 2012


Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 11CH235 Honorable Thomas E. Griffith, Jr., Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cook

JUSTICE COOK delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 In this action, plaintiff, World Painting Company, LLC, challenges the validity of the Employee Classification Act (Act) (820 ILCS 185/1 to 999 (West 2010)), arguing the Act violates due process. In September 2011, the trial court entered a preliminary injunction barring defendants, Director of Labor Joseph Costigan and Attorney General Lisa Madigan in their official capacities, from enforcing the Act against plaintiff pending the outcome of plaintiff's claims for permanent injunctive and declaratory relief. The court's judgment followed a hearing at which defendants conceded that the Fifth District Appellate Court's decision in Bartlow v. Shannon, 399 Ill. App. 3d 560, 927 N.E.2d 88 (2010), was mandatory authority and supported plaintiff's request for preliminary injunction.

¶ 2 Defendants appeal, arguing the trial court erred in granting the preliminary injunction as Bartlow was decided wrongly. Specifically, defendants contend that under an appropriate reading of the Act, inconsistent with the appellate court's interpretation in Bartlow, plaintiff's due process concerns were unfounded and its request for preliminary injunction should have been denied. At oral argument, plaintiff conceded that defendants' proposed interpretation of the Act is reasonable and ensures plaintiff will receive due process. Plaintiff nevertheless argues that defendants' proposed interpretation violates principles of the separation of powers.

¶ 3 We allow the parties' agreed interpretation of the Act to control in this case and reject plaintiff's separation-of-powers argument. Accordingly, as defendants' proposal to bind themselves to their reading of the Act resolves plaintiff's due-process claim, we vacate the trial court's judgment granting the preliminary injunction and remand for further proceedings.


¶ 5 In May 2011, plaintiff, a contracting firm, received a letter from the Department of Labor (Department) informing plaintiff of its preliminary determination that plaintiff had accrued 27 total days' violations of the Act by misclassifying six workers as nonemployees on two construction projects between October and December 2009. The letter indicated plaintiff faced $40,500 in possible civil penalties and invited plaintiff to submit exculpating evidence in writing for the Department's consideration toward reaching a final determination.

¶ 6 Instead of responding to the Department's request for additional information, in July 2011, plaintiff filed its complaint alleging the Act is unconstitutional on its face. Specifically, plaintiff alleged the Act violates due process by failing to provide contractors who are suspected of violating the Act adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the imposition of penalties, including civil fines. Plaintiff's complaint sought a permanent injunction barring defendants' enforcement of the statute against plaintiff and declaratory relief. In August 2011, plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent defendants from enforcing the Act against it during the pendency of the trial proceedings.

¶ 7 On August 25, 2011, the trial court held a hearing on plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants conceded that Bartlow, a Fifth District decision, was mandatory authority before the court and that plaintiff was entitled to a preliminary injunction under that case. The court granted plaintiff's motion, finding Bartlow was controlling.

¶ 8 This interlocutory appeal followed.


¶ 10 On appeal, defendants ask this court to disregard Bartlow and to rule plaintiff's claim for preliminary injunction should not have been granted because plaintiff's due-process claim is premature under an appropriate interpretation of the Act. At oral argument, plaintiff conceded defendants' proposed interpretation was reasonable and would resolve the alleged due-process deficiencies. We allow the parties' agreed reading of the Act, which we find otherwise constitutional, to control our disposition of this case. Because under their interpretation of the Act plaintiff is not entitled to a preliminary injunction, we vacate the trial court's imposition of preliminary injunction and remand for further proceedings.

¶ 11 A preliminary injunction is an "extraordinary" remedy that "should be granted only in situations of extreme emergency or where serious harm would result if the preliminary injunction was not issued." Clinton Landfill, Inc. v. Mahomet Valley Water Authority, 406 Ill. App. 3d 374, 378, 943 N.E.2d 725, 729 (2010). A preliminary injunction is warranted if (1) a clearly ascertained right requires protection, (2) irreparable injury will result in the absence of an injunction, (3) no adequate remedy at law is available, and (4) the moving party is likely to succeed on ...

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