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.
On July 18, 2017 the Fourth District Appellate Court heard oral arguments in Marinelli v. Board of Trustees of the Springfield Police Pension Fund. The police officer plaintiff was disabled due to thoracic outlet syndrome that caused numbness and tingling in his hand. The Pension Board awarded a “not on duty” disability pension but denied the application for a “line of duty” disability pension. The trial court affirmed. The plaintiff argued that the evidence demonstrated that the police officer’s acts of writing reports in his squad car in some way caused or contributed to the development of thoracic outlet syndrome. Additionally, the plaintiff argued that writing reports in a squad car constituted an “act of duty” within the meaning of the pension code.
On May 9, 2017 the Second District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in Stevens v. Board of Trustees of the Waukegan Firefighters’ Pension Fund. The pension board appealed the trial court’s order with respect to the pension board’s decision terminating a disability pension. The trial court remanded the matter to the pension board to conduct an additional medical examination. The pension board moved for rule 304(a) language to obtain a final and appealable order in the trial court. The trial court denied the motion. The pension board then filed a notice of appeal. The appellate court held that it did not have jurisdiction to decide the appeal because the trial court had denied the rule 304(a) motion.
On June 28, 2017 the Second District Appellate Court heard oral arguments in Naden v. Board of Trustees of the Sugar Grove Firefighters’ Pension Fund. The Pension Board denied the plaintiff’s application for a line of duty disability pension. The plaintiff alleged that her disabling condition resulted from discrimination by her subordinates within the department. The trial court affirmed. PGM will post the court’s decision once it is issued.
On June 13, 2016 the Fifth District Appellate Court heard oral arguments in Martin v. Board of Trustees of the Shiloh Police Pension Fund. The issue in the case is whether the pension board erred when it determined that the plaintiff’s disabling injury was not incurred in or did not result from the performance of an act of duty. The trial court reversed the pension board’s decision. The plaintiff was in a police vehicle and injured in a car accident after having lunch. The plaintiff was returning from a state’s attorney’s office to the police department. PGM will post the court’s decision once it is issued.
The Illinois Legislature approved House Bill 418. The bill amends article 3 of the pension code. The bill provides that on or after January 1, 2019 a person may not elect to participate in the IMRF as Chief of Police of a municipality unless the person was already a participating employee in the IMRF prior to January 1, 2019. The bill also requires each municipality to create a defined contribution (“DC”) plan for certain police officers. If a police officer with more than 10 years of creditable service enters active service with another municipality, the police officer may elect to participate in the DC plan. A police officer electing participation in the DC plan may rescind that election and enter the defined benefit plan, but the contributions made to the DC plan remain in the DC plan.
The bill also amended the re-entry provision (section 3-124.1 of the pension code). If a police officer who first becomes a member on or after January 1, 2019 is receiving pension payments and re-enters active service with any Article 3 municipality, that police officer may continue to receive pension payments, but must participate in the DC plan and may not obtain any additional creditable service in an Article 3 fund.
On March 31, 2017 the First District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in Klees v. Village of Mount Prospect, et al. The plaintiff applied for PSEBA benefits. The village denied the plaintiff’s request for PSEBA benefits finding that the plaintiff was not responding to what he reasonably believed to be an emergency at the time he suffered his disabling injury. The trial court and the appellate court affirmed.
The plaintiff suffered 9 separate injuries during this career. There is no dispute that 3 of those injuries occurred while the plaintiff was responding to emergencies. The pension board ultimately awarded the plaintiff a line of duty disability pension and found that the plaintiff’s disabling injury resulted from the cumulative effects of acts of duty.
The plaintiff first argued that the village was collaterally estopped from denying his PSEBA claim. The appellate court held that the plaintiff procedurally defaulted his collateral estoppel argument by not raising it at the administrative level. However, even if the plaintiff had not procedurally defaulted his argument, the appellate court held that the village was not collaterally estopped from denying the plaintiff’s PSEBA claim based on the workers’ compensation findings that certain injuries arose out of the course of the plaintiff’s employment. Collateral estoppel does not apply because the PSEBA and workers’ compensation issues are not identical.
The appellate court then held that the village’s decision denying the plaintiff’s PSEBA claim was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Although doctors issued reports indicating that the plaintiff’s disabling condition (ie. catastrophic injury) resulted from his performance of acts of duties, none of the reports specifically addressed whether the plaintiff’s disabling injury resulted from the plaintiff’s response to any of the 3 emergency situations. Essentially, the plaintiff failed to prove his claim.