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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Illinois Appellate Court Overturns Pension Board, Holds that Police Chief is Entitled to Not-on-Duty Disability Pension

In a recent decision, Girot v. Board of Trustees of the Braidwood Police Pension Fund, an Illinois Appellate Court overturned a pension board determination that a former police chief was not entitled to a not-on-duty disability pension. 

In February 2019, the Braidwood Police Pension Board had concluded that the chief was no less disabled when he took the job with the police department than when he finished his service, and as a result he did not meet the statutory requirements for a not-on-duty disability pension. The chief sued, and the case made its way to the Appellate Court.

The Appellate Court used the relevant statutory language to analyze whether the police chief had proven his eligibility for a non-duty disability pension. The Court examined the following issues: (1) whether the police chief was disabled under the law due to an injury not sustained in the line of duty, and (2) whether his disability necessitated his retirement or suspension. 

In addressing the first question, the Court held that the Pension Board had not properly weighed the significant evidence that the chief presented about his disability arising during, rather than before, his employment as police chief, including the chronic pain condition he experienced after a complete knee replacement. According to the Court, the medical records produced by the chief during his Pension Board hearing showed that this condition was diagnosed after he was hired, and that it rendered him unable to perform his responsibilities as chief of police. The Court held that the Board improperly focused on the portions of the hearing that were less favorable to the chief's application, and that the bulk of credible evidence presented regarding his disability supported approving his disability pension application.

In addition, the Court concluded that the pain arising from the chief’s condition, along with the medication he took to in response, required his retirement or suspension from duty. The fact that the chief’s application coincided with the predetermined end of his term of service, rather than an early retirement or suspension from police service, was immaterial because it was undeniable that his disability rendered him incapable of performing his job duties, regardless of when he applied for the pension.

Post Authored by Erin Monforti and Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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