JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Thomas,
Kilbride, Garman, Theis, and Neville concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 The plaintiff in this case was injured in a motor vehicle
accident caused by a third party while riding in an employee
transport van owned by defendant Professional Transportation,
Inc. (PTI). She filed a declaratory judgment action in the
circuit court of Cook County seeking a declaration that
defendant was legally responsible for her damages due to a
statutory violation. Specifically, plaintiff alleged that
defendant's vehicle insurance policy did not contain the
minimum coverage required by section 8-101(c) of the Illinois
Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/8-101(c) (West 2010)). In response,
PTI filed affirmative defenses alleging that section 8-101(c)
was unconstitutional. At the same time, PTI filed a
counterclaim based on grounds identical to those alleged in
its affirmative defenses. The trial court dismissed the
counterclaim with prejudice. The appellate court affirmed the
dismissal of the counterclaim, but on different grounds. 2018
IL App. (1st) 170075. We now hold that the counterclaim was
not a proper counterclaim under Illinois law. Accordingly, we
strike the counterclaim, vacate the lower courts'
judgments, and remand the cause to the trial court for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
3 In 2010, plaintiff, Mary Terry Carmichael, was an employee
of Union Pacific Railroad Company (Union Pacific). Union
Pacific contracted with PTI to transport its employees to and
between job sites. On November 13, 2010, plaintiff was riding
in one of PTI's vans in the course of her employment when
the van collided with another vehicle, causing plaintiff
severe injuries. The driver of the other vehicle, Dwayne
Bell, carried an automobile insurance policy with liability
coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, the
minimum coverage required by Illinois law.
4 On September 15, 2011, plaintiff filed a complaint in the
law division of the circuit court of Cook County against
Union Pacific, PTI, and Bell. Plaintiff sought money damages
for her injuries based on negligence and violations of the
Federal Employers' Liability Act (45 U.S.C. §§
51-60 (2006)). Subsequently, Union Pacific and PTI were
dismissed from the case after it was determined that their
conduct did not cause the accident. Plaintiff ultimately
reached a settlement with Bell in the amount of $20,000, the
maximum amount of his liability coverage.
5 On October 17, 2012, while her negligence action was
pending, plaintiff filed a three-count complaint for
declaratory judgment and other relief in the chancery
division of the circuit court against PTI, Union Pacific, and
ACE American Insurance Company (ACE). In count I, plaintiff
alleged that PTI was legally responsible for her damages
because it was in violation of section 8-101(c) of the
Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/8-101(c) (West 2010)). The
version of section 8-101(c) in effect at the time of the
accident required "a contract carrier transporting
employees in the course of their employment on a highway of
this State in a vehicle designed to carry 15 or fewer
passengers" to maintain uninsured and underinsured motor
vehicle coverage "in a total amount of not less than
$250,000 per passenger." Id. The statute
required affected contract carriers to file proof of
financial responsibility with the Secretary of State.
Id. Pursuant to section 8-116 of the Vehicle Code, a
contract carrier who failed to comply with section 8-101(c)
was guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Id. §
6 Plaintiff alleged that PTI's liability policy did not
meet the statutory minimum because its uninsured and
underinsured motor vehicle coverage was limited to $20,000
per passenger and $40,000 per occurrence. She sought a
judicial declaration that PTI was legally responsible for her
damages sustained in the accident in excess of Bell's
insurance policy limits, up to a maximum of $250,000.
7 PTI initially filed an answer and affirmative defenses on
April 23, 2013. On October 2, 2013, PTI filed its amended
answer, five affirmative defenses, and counterclaim. The
first four affirmative defenses alleged that sections
8-101(c) and 8-116 of the Vehicle Code were unconstitutional.
First, PTI alleged that the statutes constitute prohibited
special legislation, in violation of article IV, section 13,
of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 (Ill. Const. 1970, art.
IV, § 13).
8 Second, PTI alleged that the statutes violate the equal
protection clauses in the state and federal constitutions
(Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2; U.S. Const., amend.
XIV), on the grounds that "no other motor vehicle
passenger carriers in Illinois are burdened with the unique
requirement of maintaining such insurance, and there is no
reasonable basis to impose such a requirement on PTI and
others who are similarly situated."
9 Third, PTI alleged that the statutes violate the due
process clauses in the state and federal constitutions (Ill.
Const. 1970, art. I, § 2; U.S. Const., amend. XIV)
because they "are unconstitutionally vague and uncertain
*** in that the underinsured motorist insurance
requirements contained therein make ambiguous references to
vehicles designed to carry 'fifteen or fewer'
passengers and impose ambiguous levels of insurance in a
'total amount' of 'not less than $250,000 per
10 Fourth, PTI alleged that the statutes "constitute an
undue and unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,"
in violation of the commerce clause of the United States
Constitution (U.S. Const., art. I, § 8, cl. 3), "in
that contract motor carriers, such as PTI, which transport
passengers in interstate commerce, could not know how much
underinsured motorist coverage to obtain in advance of
operating, *** and this and other burdens imposed by
the statute would unreasonably burden PTI and other similarly
situated contract carriers."
11 PTI's fifth affirmative defense alleged that section
8-101(c) does not provide any civil remedy for statutory
violations. It alleged that the criminal penalty in section
8-116 is the sole enforcement mechanism for section 8-101(c)
and, thus, plaintiff could not rely on the statute as grounds
for filing a private cause of action.
12 Along with its amended answer and affirmative defenses,
PTI filed a separate counterclaim seeking a declaratory
judgment against plaintiff and the State of Illinois, by and
through the Illinois Attorney General and the Illinois
Secretary of State. The counterclaim restated the identical
constitutional arguments alleged in PTI's first four
affirmative defenses. The constitutional claims were the only
legal grounds set forth in the counterclaim. In its prayer
for relief, PTI asked that the trial court declare
unconstitutional section 8-101(c) and section 8-116, to the
extent it applies to section 8-101(c). PTI also requested
"that [plaintiffs] declaratory judgment action be
dismissed with prejudice as to PTI."
13 On December 3, 2013, then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan
filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaim pursuant to
sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735
ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619 (West 2010)). Attorney General Madigan
argued that PTI's claims should be dismissed because it
failed to follow the procedure set forth in Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 19 (eff. Sept. 1, 2006). Under this rule, a party
challenging the constitutionality of a statute must provide
notice to the Attorney General in order to afford the
appropriate state officer "the opportunity, but not the
obligation, to intervene in the cause or proceeding for the
purpose of defending" the statute. Ill. S.Ct. R. 19(c)
(eff. Sept. 1, 2006). Here, PTI avoided this process by
filing a declaratory judgment action directly against state
officials. Thus, Attorney General Madigan argued that the
counterclaim should be dismissed as procedurally improper.
14 Attorney General Madigan also argued that PTI's
constitutional claims failed on the merits. Thus, the
counterclaim should be dismissed with prejudice.
Alternatively, she suggested that the court could avoid
addressing the constitutional issues by resolving the case on
nonconstitutional grounds, i.e., by holding that
section 8-101(c) does not provide for a private cause of
15 In response, PTI argued that deciding the case on
nonconstitutional grounds would not completely resolve its
counterclaim, for the following reasons:
"This Court's declaration that 5/8-101(c) does not
provide a civil remedy would not be binding in other civil
cases brought by other plaintiffs against PTI under the
statute. Moreover, such a finding would not fix PTI's
rights regarding any criminal prosecution that might be
conducted against PTI under the statute. Resolving PTI's
counterclaim, which seeks a determination that the offending
UM/UIM insurance obligation imposed by 5/8-101(c) is
unconstitutional, is the only way to finally determine the
rights of all of the parties to this case."
16 With leave of court, on May 16, 2014, PTI filed its third
amended counterclaim naming Illinois Secretary of State Jesse
White and plaintiff as the only counter defendants. On the
same day, PTI filed a motion to dismiss count I of plaintiffs
complaint, arguing that section 8-101(c) does not provide for
an express or implied private right of action. PTI also
argued that its vehicles did not fit the definition of