On June 28, 2017 the First District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in Orrico v. Board of Trustees of the Oak Lawn Firefighters’ Pension Fund. The plaintiff was a fire lieutenant for the village of Oak Lawn. A car struck the plaintiff and the plaintiff received a line of duty disability pension. When the plaintiff was approximately 60 years old, he accepted a job as the assistant fire chief for a fire department in Texas. The plaintiff signed certain employment documents affirming that he could perform certain physical tasks associated with fire suppression and fire rescue activities. The plaintiff signed certain employment documents indicating that he would be able to receive a Texas firefighter certificate. The plaintiff was assigned turnout gear and a SCBA. Although it was not the plaintiff’s primary function to perform fire rescue or fire suppression activities as the assistant chief, the Texas fire chief testified that the plaintiff could have found himself inside a burning building and directing other firefighters. Pursuant to section 4-112 of the pension code, the pension board held a hearing to determine whether the plaintiff had recovered from his disability. Because the plaintiff was over 50 years old, the pension board did not have the authority to send the plaintiff for a medical examination. See Hoffman v. Orland FPD Firefighters’ Pension Board. The pension board, in a split vote, determined the plaintiff had recovered from his disability despite no medical evidence to support the conclusion. The trial court reversed the pension board’s decision and the appellate court affirmed the trial court.
The appellate court ultimately determined that the pension board did not have “satisfactory proof” for purposes of section 4-112 that the plaintiff had “recovered from his disability.” The appellate court noted that the employment documents contained boilerplate language that did not accurately define the job duties for the plaintiff and that the record did not support the pension board’s conclusion that the plaintiff would be called upon, as the assistant fire chief, to perform fire rescue and fire suppression activities. Interestingly, in dicta, the appellate court agreed with the pension board that section 4-112 did not require medical evidence to establish “satisfactory proof” of recovery from disability. The appellate court also agreed with the pension board’s refusal to re-open proofs to allow the plaintiff to introduce his own hearsay medical examination report.
PGM attorney Jeff Goodloe represented the pension board before the trial court and the appellate court.
On August 21, 2017 the First District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in Aquino v. Board of Trustees of the Northlake Police Pension Fund. In Aquino, a vehicle side-swiped the plaintiff police officer during a traffic encounter. The plaintiff ultimately filed an application for a line of duty disability pension and claimed to be disabled due to complex regional pain syndrome. Two of the pension board’s IMEs concluded that the plaintiff was disabled. The third pension board IME concluded that the plaintiff was not disabled but that she was mentally unfit to be a police officer. The plaintiff testified that she was not mentally unfit to be a police officer. The city’s workers’ compensation IME concluded the plaintiff did not have complex regional pain syndrome. The pension board denied the plaintiff’s application based on a finding that she did not have complex regional pain syndrome and that she was not disabled. The trial court and the appellate court affirmed the pension board’s decision. The appellate court held that the record contained competent evidence to support the pension board’s decision and therefore the decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
PGM attorney Jeff Goodloe represented the pension board in the trial court and the appellate court.
On August 24, 2017 Public Act 100-281 became law. The law amends Article 3 of the Pension Code. The law provides the following:
- On or after January 1, 2019 a police chief cannot elect to go into the IMRF unless he or she was already a participating member in the IMRF
- Each municipality with an Article 3 pension fund is required to create a defined contribution plan for its police officers
- A police officer with 10 or more years of creditable service who enters service as a police officer with a different municipality has the option of entering the defined contribution plan rather than the defined benefit plan
- A person who first becomes a member on or after January 1, 2019 who is receiving pension payments and re-enters active service as a police officer with any other Article 3 municipality can continue to receive his or her pension but is required to go into the defined contribution plan as opposed to the defined benefit plan.
There is already a substantial amount of debate regarding the meaning of #4 and the phrase “first becomes a member.”
On August 25, 2017 Public Act 100-0334 became law. Among other pension provisions, the law amends section 3-147 and 4-138 of the Pension Code. The law provides that a surviving spouse is not entitled to pension benefits if he or she is convicted of a felony related to, arising out of, or connected with the service of the police officer or firefighter from whom the benefit results. However, the law does not apply to any contract or vested right acquired by a survivor prior to the effective date of the statute.