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Appellate Court Affirms Village’s Denial of PSEBA Benefits

October 6th, 2014

Whited v. Village of Hoffman Estates,  2014 IL App (1st) 131662-U

In a recent unpublished opinion, the First District Appellate Court affirmed the Village of Hoffman Estates decision denying health insurance benefits under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (“PSEBA”).  Specifically, that Court determined the municipality’s finding was not against the manifest weight of the evidence because the record showed the plaintiff did not suffer a catastrophic injury while responding to an emergency.

Plaintiff Deborah Whited claimed she suffered a catastrophic injury on April 24, 2010.  The record showed Whited had been employed with the Village since October 1989.  On March 12, 2004, she sustained an injury to her right knee during a mandatory police training session.  Between 2004 and 2010, she underwent three arthroscopic knee surgeries.  In 2011, plaintiff applied for and was awarded a line-of-duty disability pension based on the March 2004 injury.  Subsequent to the granting of her disability pension, plaintiff asked the Village to determine whether she was eligible for PSEBA benefits.

Section 10 of PSEBA provides, in part, that a full-time law enforcement officer is eligible to receive health insurance benefits if two conditions are met.  First, the officer must have suffered a
catastrophic injury in the line of duty.  Second, the injury must have occurred as the result of the officer’s response to fresh pursuit, or the officer’s response to what is reasonably believed to be an emergency, an unlawful act by another, or during the investigation of a criminal act.  Both requirements must be satisfied for an officer to be eligible for benefits.

At a hearing on the issue, plaintiff testified that on April 24, 2010, she felt her knee buckle while descending stairs at the police station, on the way to a domestic call.  Even though she was in pain, she continued to the call, where he knee gave out again.  Three days later, a doctor placed her on light duty, where she remained until 2011.  Plaintiff further testified she was entitled to benefits as a result of both the March 2004 and April 2010 injuries.

After a thorough review of the record, the Appellate Court found the Village’s determination that plaintiff was not injured in April 2010 as not against the manifest weight of the evidence.  Plaintiff’s disability pension, awarded in 2011, was based on the 2004 injury and made no reference whatsoever to an April 2010 injury.  The

Court noted that if such an injury had occurred, it would have been included in her disability pension application.  In addition, the Court found that, as the trier of fact, the hearing officer is charged with determining credibility of witnesses at the hearing.  Judgment of the Circuit Court of Cook County affirmed.