SCEPUREK v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE NORTHBROOK FIREFIGHTERS PENSION FUND

On January 14, 2014 the First District Appellate Court issued a Rule 23 Order in Scepurek v. Board of Trustees of the Northbrook Firefighters’ Pension Fund.  On March 4, 2014 the First District Appellate Court granted a motion to publish the Rule 23 Order as an Opinion.

The plaintiff alleged that he suffered a disabling back injury while performing CPR.  The plaintiff alleged that the act of duty, in part, exacerbated the plaintiff’s pre-existing back conditions.  The Pension Board rejected the plaintiff’s argument.  The Appellate Court held that the Pension Board’s decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.  First, the Appellate Court noted that “a disability may result from multiple causes” and that the plaintiff only has to prove that the act of duty “is a causative factor contributing to the claimant’s disability.”  The Appellate Court held that the record did not contain any evidence to support the Pension Board’s decision.  “[A]ll physicians, including the Board’s own independent medical evaluators, concluded that the [act of duty] at least, in part, contributed to plaintiff’s permanent disability.”  The Appellate Court concluded that the Board was “totally unrealistic in its finding” and that dismissing the act of duty as a causative factor “defied common sense.”

This is another case where a pension board rejects the medical opinions based on a finding that the applicant is not creditable.  The Appellate Court noted that there was no evidence in the record that the plaintiff was malingering.  The Appellate Court also noted that the Pension Board’s observation that the plaintiff did not have trouble sitting through the disability hearing went to the issue of “disability” and not the issue of “causation.”  The Appellate Court concluded the Pension Board “substituted its lay assumptions and engaged in conjecture.”  Finally, the Appellate Court held that while credibility determinations are generally within the province of the Board, “the Board cannot piecemeal tear apart a plaintiff’s credibility one one issue while finding him credible on all other issues when plaintiff’s statements are supported by documentary evidence and are found credible by all medical evidence in the case.”

Click HERE to listen to Oral Argument

SWANSON v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF FLOSSMOOR POLICE PENSION FUND

On March 3, 2014 the First District Appellate Court issued its Opinion in Swanson v. Board of Trustees of the Flossmoor Police Pension Fund.  The Pension Board denied the plaintiff’s applications for a line-of-duty disability pension under section 3-114.1 of the pension code or a heart attack/stroke pension under section 3-114.3 of the pension code. The Pension Board awarded the plaintiff a not-on-duty disability pension.  The trial court and the appellate court affirmed the Pension Board’s decision.  The appellate court confirmed that the issue of causation presents a question of fact subject to the manifest weight of the evidence standard of review.  The appellate court also held that at least one doctor concluded that police service did not cause the plaintiff’s stroke and that therefore the Pension Board’s decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The plaintiff also argued that the Pension Board erred when it requested causation opinions from its three independent medical examiners (IMEs).  The plaintiff contended that the pension code only permitted the IMEs to render an opinion as to whether a police officer is disabled and not on the issue of causation.  The appellate court did not rule on the merits of the plaintiff’s argument, but instead held that the plaintiff waived the argument by failing to object to the IME reports at the disability hearing.