The Appellate Court reversed the Circuit Court and upheld a Pension Board decision which voted unanimously to deny Officer Filskov’s application for a line of duty disability pension benefit in Filskov v. The Board of Trustees of the Northlake Police Pension Fund, No. 1-09-3151 (April 5, 2011). Officer Filskov was a member of a gang suppression unit and was injured when a fellow officer inadvertently put a squad car in drive and drove over Filskov’s foot while he was moving items which were in the back seat. The officers were leaving a police station and had yet to resume their patrol. They were not acting in response to a call for service when the incident occurred.
The Pension Board decision indicated Filskov faced the same risk ordinarily assumed by any citizen who chooses to become a passenger in a vehicle. Filskov admitted he and the other officers were not responding to a call or in any way involved in an act of police duty inherently involving a special risk.
Section 3-114.1(a) of the Pension Code states:
Disability Pension - - Line of duty (a) if a police officer as the result of sickness, accident or injury incurred in or resulting from the performance of an act of duty, is found to be physically or mentally disabled for service in the police department, so as to render necessary his or her suspension or retirement from the police service, the police officer shall be entitled to a disability retirement pension...
Section 5-113 of the Code defines the term “act of duty” as “any act of police duty inherently involving special risk, not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life.” 40 ILCS 5/5-113 (West 2008). The Appellate Court examined the applicable case law and stated, for a police officer to have suffered a line of duty injury the facts need to demonstrate the “officer faced a special risk associated with serving as a police officer at the time of the injury.”
With this in mind the Court stated the Pension Board’s decision was not clearly erroneous because the incident in question, entering a vehicle, did not involve a “special risk, not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life.” The Court noted Filskov was engaging in an ordinary risk that all citizens assume when they either enter a vehicle or move items off the seats of vehicles. Thus, the Circuit Court decision was reversed. Please note this officer would still be entitled to a disability pension, just not a line-of-duty disability pension.
Presiding Justice Cunningham dissented. He felt Filskov was engaged in police work when he was injured because his assignment was to enter a vehicle and drive to a location to perform his police duties. Justice Cunningham believed Filskov met his burden of proving his injury occurred within the narrow parameters of performing an act of police duty.
We agree with the majority decision as all of us enter vehicles as a part of everyday life. We do not feel an injury suffered while doing so is associated with a special risk of police work as required by the Code. This article was researched and written by Matthew Ignoffo, J.D. Please do not hesitate to reply or contact Matt about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.