APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. JOHN A.
KRAUSE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE VAN DEUSEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied July 6, 1981.
On November 29, 1976, Richard Ernzen applied to the Board of Trustees of the Firemen's Pension Fund of the City of Batavia, Illinois, for a disability pension. Ernzen, a former Batavia fireman, pursuant to the Illinois Pension Code applied for a service connected disability pension (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 108 1/2, par. 4-110) and for occupational disease disability benefits (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 108 1/2, par. 4-110.1). In 1978 following a series of hearings, the Board entered an order denying the application. Under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), Ernzen filed a complaint in the circuit court of Kane County to review the decision of the Board.
The circuit court ruled that the Board's decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence and that Ernzen was entitled to a disability pension. The Board appeals raising two issues:
(1) Whether the Board's order was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, and
(2) Whether the trial court erred in denying the Board's request to remand the matter to the Board for the purpose of taking the "sworn in person" testimony of certain medical doctors.
The plaintiff, Ernzen, entered into employment with the Batavia Fire Department as a firefighter in January 1971. Beginning in March 1976 Ernzen suffered several episodes of dizziness, loss of coordination and blurred vision. He was referred to the Batavia city doctor, Dr. Sloniewicz. The doctor prescribed pills for dizziness and recommended that Ernzen be examined by an ear doctor. Ernzen, however, consulted a friend, Dr. Schuler, who immediately had Ernzen admitted to the Illinois Research Hospital where Schuler was a staff doctor. The plaintiff was hospitalized for two weeks. During that time he suffered no further symptoms.
As a result of the episodes of dizziness, Dr. Sloniewicz informed the fire chief that Ernzen was no longer able to perform fire fighter's duties. The doctor also indicated that Ernzen's illness was not job-related. The fire chief then requested that the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners terminate Ernzen from service. He also informed Ernzen that unless he resigned within 30 days, the fire chief would file charges with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners alleging that because of Ernzen's physical condition, he could not perform his duties as a fireman and, therefore, should be discharged. Ernzen thereupon resigned, reserving his right to claim benefits under the Pension Code. Ernzen applied for a pension to the Board of Trustees of the Batavia Firemen's Pension Fund. A hearing was commenced under the provisions of section 4-125 of the Code. The parties agreed to waive these requirements of section 4-112 of the Code which would have required that the fireman applying for a pension be examined by three physicians practicing in the municipality.
On October 25, 1977, the Board commenced the hearing. At this first session, counsel for both sides agreed that only the applicant's physician, Dr. Schuler, and the city physician, Dr. Sloniewicz, would testify and that this testimony would be supplemented by written material — letters and opinions — from other sources.
Dr. Sloniewicz then requested that all medical records and X rays taken while Ernzen was hospitalized at the University of Illinois Research Hospital be sent to him. While some of the records were promptly sent to Dr. Sloniewicz, he did not receive the X rays until much later and then only after several additional requests were made.
At this initial hearing, the Board heard the testimony of the applicant and his physician, Dr. Schuler. On December 6, 1977, the hearing was reconvened to take the testimony of the city physician. The matter was then adjourned to December 20, 1977. On that date no evidence was presented and the matter was continued to January 11, 1978. At that time the Board again heard the applicant's physician and the city physician.
At the request of the city physician, the matter was again continued so that the doctor could procure the rest of the applicant's medical records and the X rays from the University of Illinois Research Hospital. The hearing was finally resumed and completed on November 7, 1978.
At the various hearings the following testimony was heard. Richard Ernzen, age 28, testified that he joined the City of Batavia Fire Department January 15, 1971, and resigned from the department on November 6, 1976. In February 1976 he had an episode of blurred vision, loss of coordination, loss of use in the right arm and leg, dizziness, and sweating which lasted approximately 10 minutes. He had never experienced that before. He went to the hospital and was examined as an out-patient. The next morning, he had a similar, yet less severe, episode. He reported this to the fire chief who arranged an examination by the city physician, Dr. Sloniewicz. He was also examined by Dr. James Schuler, a resident at the University of Illinois Research Hospital in Chicago, who hospitalized him for two weeks. During his hospitalization he was told that he had arteriosclerosis and could, therefore, no longer be a fireman.
Ernzen also testified that as a lieutenant in the fire department he was exposed to every type of burning ...