ORRICO v. OAK LAWN FIREFIGHTERS’ PENSION BOARD

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.

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