On January 8, 2019 the First District Appellate Court held oral arguments in Siwinski v. Fireman’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago, et al.
The plaintiff was a firefighter paramedic. The plaintiff applied for a line of duty disability pension based on PTSD. The pension board denied the plaintiff’s application. The trial court affirmed the pension board’s decision. The plaintiff appealed. The issue is whether the pension board’s decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence.
On December 31, 2018 the Second District Appellate Court issued its Opinion in Frisby v. Bolingbrook Firefighters’ Pension Board. The appellate court reversed the circuit court and affirmed the Pension Board’s decision to deny the plaintiff’s application for a “line of duty” disability pension and instead grant the plaintiff a “not in duty” disability pension.
The plaintiff, a firefighter, fell in the fire station’s parking lot 20 minutes before her shift started and injured her arm. The plaintiff applied for a line of duty disability pension, and in the alternative, a not in duty disability pension. The Pension Board granted the plaintiff’s application for a not in duty disability pension and denied the plaintiff’s application for a line of duty disability pension. The Pension Board found that the plaintiff’s disabling injury was not incurred in and did not result from the performance of an “act of duty” or the cumulative effects of acts of duty. The trial court reversed the Pension Board’s decision and held that the plaintiff was performing an act of duty at the time she fell in the parking lot before her shift started.
In reversing the trial court’s order, the appellate court held that the clearly erroneous standard of review applied to the pension board’s decision. The appellate court held that the plaintiff was not performing an act imposed by rule or regulation of the fire department when she fell before her shift started. The appellate court held that to accept the plaintiff’s interpretation of the phrase act of duty would extend the concepts of “act of duty” and “on duty” beyond their intended scope and would create an unworkable standard.
Attorney Jeff Goodloe represented the Pension Board in this matter.