Morici, Figlioli & Associates partner David Figlioli and associate Carl Virgilio were featured in the Illinois State Bar Association Daily News for their work on behalf of a suburban police officer who was injured while inspecting an illegally overweight truck and was unable to return to full duty work as a police officer. They argued that under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act he was entitled to health insurance paid by the City for life because he was injured as the “result of an unlawful act”, the operation of an overweight truck.
The Feb. 6 ruling from the Illinois Appellate Court, First District in Chicago was authored by Justice Aurelia Pucinski, with concurrence from Justice P. Scott Neville Jr. The majority ruling favored former Des Plaines police officer John Marquardt in his action for PSEBA benefits against the City of Des Plaines, a suburb just outside Chicago’s Northwest Side. A dissenting opinion was authored by Justice Mary Anne Mason.
While on patrol in 2010, officer Marquardt pulled over an overweight semi-tractor trailer. When officer Marquardt climbed a ladder attached to the open-topped trailer to view the load – necessary to fill out a village report - he suffered a knee injury. He underwent total knee replacement surgery in 2012, then applied for a line-of-duty disability pension. The Pension Board approved the application, giving him a pension at 65 percent of his pay as a police officer.
Marquardt then applied to continue receiving city health insurance benefits under the Illinois Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA). The Act ensures insurance is extended to employees and their families if the employee is killed or “catastrophically” injured in the line of duty.
However, the City denied his request, saying although he may have been catastrophically injured, he was not injured in any of the scenarios outlined in the Act to qualify for this benefit. The scenarios by which the injury must have occurred are: the officers response to a “fresh pursuit,” the officers response to what is reasonably believed to be an emergency, an unlawful act perpetrated by another, or during an investigation of a criminal act.
Marquardt then sued the City for the PSEBA benefits in Cook County Circuit Court. Judge Franklin Valderrama ruled in favor of Marquardt awarding him the benefits. The City appealed.
On appeal, the City argued Marquardt did not qualify for benefits, because the driving of overweight truck was unlawful, but that act did not cause Marquardt’s knee injury. Specifically, the overweight truck violation had already been committed and addressed when the injury occurred, the City asserted.
Justice Pucinski disagreed, finding Marquardt's injury was the “result of an unlawful act perpetrated by another,” as spelled out in the Act. Pucinski said the injury was “clearly a consequence or effect of” the truck driver's “unlawful act of driving an overweight truck.”
Justice Mason in her dissenting opinion, reasoned otherwise. “Certainly Marquardt would not have been injured but for” the driver's “unlawful act, but his injury was not a result of that act,” Mason reasoned. Mason said an unlawful act that injures an officer must be directed at the officer, such as a person striking an officer.
“When instead the third party's unlawful conduct is not directed at the public safety employee but merely sets in motion a series of events that ultimately leads to the injury, the remote nature of the connection is inconsistent with the concept of an unlawfully perpetrated act,” Mason said.
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If you or a loved one have suffered a work related injury and have questions on how to move forward with your claim, look no further than our Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers at Morici, Figlioli & Associates. We are dedicated to providing our clients exceptional legal counsel, service and representation. Allow us to advocate on your behalf.
Interested in speaking to a member of our firm? Don’t hesitate to contact us at your earliest convenience by calling (312) 372-9600.