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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Officer Did Not Prove "Emergency" for PSEBA Benefits

The Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA) provides health insurance benefits to public safety employees who (1) suffer a catastrophic injury that occurs as the result of the officer's response to fresh pursuit; response to what is reasonably believed to be an emergency; an unlawful act perpetrated by another; or during the investigation of a criminal act.  In Vaughn v. City of Carbondale, 2016 IL 119181, the Illinois Supreme Court examined the second part of this test and held that a police officer was not entitled to PSEBA benefits for an injury that resulted when the officer answered a call from dispatch. 

Officer Vaughn hit his head on his squad car when he was reaching into his vehicle to answer a dispatch call. He applied for, and received disability pension benefits for the injury. He also received PSEBA benefits.  Five years after the injury event, the City notified Vaughn that they were no longer providing him with PSEBA benefits based on a medical examination that found him fit for duty. He sued, claiming that because he continued to be entitled to on-duty disability pension benefits, he was also entitled to PSEBA benefits.

Although the Illinois Supreme Court agreed with Vaughn that an award of on-duty disability benefits qualified the injury as "catastrophic," the Court held that Vaughn did not establish that the injury was incurred in response to an emergency, the second prong of the PSEBA test. The Court noted that not every call from dispatch is an emergency, and Vaughn was not able to show his injury was incurred in response to what he reasonably believed to be an emergency. As a result, Vaughn was no longer entitled to PSEBA benefits.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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