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Monday, July 28, 2014

Village Cannot Challenge PSEBA Benefits

Another Illinois appellate court affirms the Illinois Supreme Court's Krohe decision that being awarded a line of duty disability satisfies the "catastrophic injury" requirement for purposes of determining eligibility for PSEBA benefits.  Village of Vernon Hills v. Heelan, 2014 IL App (2d) 130823 (July 23, 2014).

The Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA) requires a municipality to pay the health insurance benefits of an officer and the officer's family if the officer sustains a catastrophic injury in responding to what the officer believes is an emergency.  In 2003, the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted "catastrophic injury" to be synonymous with an injury resulting from a line of duty disability awarded under the Pension Code.  

In this case, Officer Heelan was injured responding to a call, and applied for and was awarded a line of duty disability.  However, the Village challenged his right to also receive PSEBA benefits by filing a lawsuit.  The trial court ruled in favor of Heelan, based on the Krohe decision.  The appellate court affirmed, determining that the Village was barred from bringing a "collateral attack" on the Pension Board's decision to award the line of duty disability.  The appellate court rejected the Village's argument that its due process rights were violated where it was denied the opportunity to challenge the Pension Board's decision because it was neither a party nor in privity with a party in that Board's proceeding.  The appellate court also refused to question or refuse to follow Krohe, holding that it was bound to follow the supreme court's ruling.  

The dissent takes a different position on the majority's view that Krohe held that a pension board's award of a line-of-duty pension is "irrefutable proof of a catastrophic injury" under PSEBA.  In the dissent's view, the Village was not collaterally attacking the Pension Board's decision, which it was not challenging, but rather was seeking to avoid liability for PSEBA benefits.  Because the Village was not a party to the Pension Board's proceeding, and did not participate in that proceeding, its due process rights are violated by not allowing the Village "its day in court."

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink 


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