NEW POLICE PENSION CASE

Hall v. Board of Trustees of the Village of Palatine Police Pension Fund, 2012 IL App (1st) 111418-U. The First District Appellate Court issued this Rule 23 (unreported order) on June 4, 2012. The Pension Board denied the plaintiff’s applications for line-of-duty and not-on-duty mental disability pensions. The circuit court affirmed the Pension Board’s decision denying the plaintiff a line-of-duty disability pension but reversed the Pension Board’s decision denying the plaintiff a not-on-duty disability pension. The circuit court held that the Pension Board could not consider the opinions of those three physicians it was required to select pursuant to 40
ILCS 5/3-115. In excluding the opinions of the three board selected physicians, the circuit court relied on the Second District Appellate Court’s 1985 opinion in Hahn v. Police Pension Fund of the City of Woodstock which held that the only relevant evidence of an applicant’s condition for purposes of a disability pension are examinations given at or near the time of the applicant’s suspension or retirement from duty. However, in a 2-1 decision, the Appellate Court reversed the circuit court and affirmed the Pension Board’s decision denying the plaintiff’s application for a not-on-duty disability pension.

Notably, the First District Appellate Court explicitly held that the Supreme Court’s 2007 opinion in Marconi v. Chicago Heights Police Pension Board overruled the Second District Appellate Court’s 1985 opinion in Hahn. Rather, in determining whether an applicant is disabled, the Pension Board is not limited to considering only those medical opinions regarding an applicant’s condition at or near the time of the applicant’s separation from duty. As the Court held, “If, as Hahn holds, the Board can only consider medical opinions of an applicant’s condition at the time of his separation from active duty, the Board would not be able to consider the opinions of the physicians the statute requires it to select, thus negating the statutory requirement. This makes no sense.” To PGM’s knowledge, this is the first time an Illinois Appellate Court has explicitly held that applicable holding in Hahn is no longer good law.

After the addressing 40 ILCS 5/3-115, the First District Appellate Court then held that the Pension Board’s decision that Hall was not mentally disabled was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Specifically, the Court held that there
was “ample evidence to support the Board’s finding that plaintiff is not credible” and that the opinion of one doctor that the plaintiff was not disabled was “entitled to great weight.” The dissenting Justice agreed that Marconi overruled Hahn. However, the dissenting Justice believed that the Pension Board’s decision that the plaintiff was not disabled was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Jeff Goodloe wrote the administrative review briefs and argued this case in the circuit court. Jeff also wrote the Pension Board’s First District Appellate Court briefs. The Appellate Court did not grant oral argument.