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Cases Pending Highlights Civil Cases in Illinois Supreme Court's November Term

October 26, 2021 4:03 PM | Carson Griffis (Administrator)

The Illinois Supreme Court's November Term begins Tuesday, November 9, 2021.  Oral arguments are scheduled for November 9, 10 and 16, 2021.  A total of 10 cases will be heard -- 4 criminal and 6 civil.  The following civil cases are scheduled for argument this Term:

November 10, 2021

Doe v. Lyft, Inc., No. 126605

In re Application of the County Collector, No. 126929

Suburban Real Estate Services v. Carlson, No. 126935

November 16, 2021

In the Matter of the Estate of John W. McDonald, III, No. 126956

International Association of Firefighters, Local 50 v. City of Peoria, No. 127040

Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, No. 127067

Below is a summary for one of those cases, Doe v. Lyft, Inc. Summaries for this case and others pending in the Illinois Supreme Court can be found in our Cases Pending publication, available to ALA members on the ALA’s website. 

Doe v. Lyft, Inc., No. 126605

This petition asks the Illinois Supreme Court to determine whether ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft may be held vicariously liable for the tortious conduct of their drivers against their passengers in the same manner as other common carriers or whether they are immune from such heightened standards under the Transportation Network Providers Act (“TNPA”).

In 2017, Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by her Lyft driver. She sued Lyft, alleging, inter alia, that as the driver’s employer, it should be vicariously liable for his conduct. Lyft moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure, arguing that it was a Transportation Network Company (“TNC”) within the meaning of Section 25(e) of the TNPA (625 ILCS 57/25(e)), and could not be treated as a common carrier subject to heightened standards of vicarious liability. In response, Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of Section 25(e), arguing that it constituted special legislation and that its enactment violated the “three readings rule” found in Section 8(d) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution.  The trial court granted Lyft’s motion to dismiss, finding that Section 25(e) plainly exempted ridesharing companies from common carrier status, meaning that Lyft may not be deemed a common carrier as a matter of law.  The court also certified two questions for immediate review under Supreme Court Rule 308: whether Section 25(e) of the TNPA “preclude[s] TNCs, such as Lyft, from otherwise being subject to the highest duty of care under common law, like that of a common carrier’s elevated duty to its passengers;” and, if so, whether it violates the Illinois Constitution’s ban on special legislation or whether the Act itself was passed in violation of the Illinois Constitution’s three-readings rule.

The Illinois Appellate Court, First District granted leave to appeal and answered the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative. The court first held that Section 25(e) of the TNPA exempted Lyft from common carrier standards of liability. Rejecting Plaintiff’s argument that TNCs provide the same functions as common carriers—and finding that, but for Section 25(e), TNCs would be common carriers—the court reasoned that imposing common carrier liability on TNCs would render that section meaningless and concluded that the section “exempts TNCs from common carrier standards of liability.”  The court accepted Plaintiff’s argument that Section 25(e) discriminates in favor of ridesharing companies vis-à-vis taxicabs, but determined that such discrimination was not arbitrary under a rational basis review. The court justified this conclusion by noting: (i) the part-time nature of Lyft drivers and how the company’s “business relationship” with them differs substantially from taxicab medallion holders; (ii) its exclusive use of technological platforms to deliver their services; and (iii) the fact that TNC passengers receive “relevant information [about their driver] before they enter the vehicle.”

The appellate court further rejected Plaintiff’s argument under the three-readings rule, which requires the general assembly to read a bill three times before passage. The court acknowledged that the TNPA originated as a wholly different bill regarding public accounting. After two readings in the House, the text of that bill was completely eliminated and replaced with entirely new language which ultimately became the TNPA. The “new” bill was then read only once in the House. While recognizing that such a procedure violates the three-readings rule under Giebelhausen v. Daley, 407 Ill. 25 (1950), the court found that the enrolled bill doctrine—which prevents judicial inquiry into legislative bill-passing procedure—foreclosed any challenge under the three-readings rule.

Concurring in part, and dissenting in part, Justice Robert Gordon agreed with the majority’s conclusion regarding Section 25(e), but opined that the section failed to pass constitutional muster under the prohibition against special legislation.

Appellate Court Decision:  2020 IL App (1st) 191328.  Lampkin, J., with Burke, J., concurring. Gordon, P.J., concurring in part and dissenting in part.

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