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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Court Approves PSEBA Administrative Process But Not Denial of Benefits

Under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), a police officer or firefighter can be entitled to health benefits for the officer and his or her family if he or she suffers a catastrophic injury in responding to an emergency situation.   A firefighter who had been awarded a line-of-duty pension for hearing damage applied for PSEBA benefits from the Village of Hoffman Estates.  The Village had enacted a local administrative process for hearing and deciding applications for PSEBA benefits, which required a hearing before the village manager.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the manager denied PSEBA benefits, and the firefighter appealed.  The trial court ruled in favor of the Village.

On appeal, the firefighter argued that the Village's administrative hearing procedure was illegal and unauthorized under Section 20 of PSEBA which expressly limits home rule authority.  The Village argued that this limitation related to the award of benefits, not the procedures for deciding applications.  The appellate court agreed, finding that a home rule municipality has authority to establish an administrative procedure for determining PSEBA claims.  However, the court found that the Village's denial of PSEBA benefits in this case was clearly erroneous because there was sufficient evidence that the hearing damage was caused by circumstances where the firefighter reasonably believed he was responding to an emergency.  Pederson v. Village of Hoffman Estates (Mar. 31, 2014).

For home rule municipalities, this is a good decision because it restricts the home rule preemption language in PSEBA and allows home rule municipalities to adopt local procedures for administering and determining PSEBA claims.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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