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07/21/89 Bradley Batka, v. the Board of Trustees of

July 21, 1989





542 N.E.2d 835, 186 Ill. App. 3d 715, 134 Ill. Dec. 489 1989.IL.1135

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE QUINLAN delivered the opinion of the court. EGAN, P.J., and LaPORTA, J., concur.


The plaintiff, Bradley Batka, filed an application for a disability pension with the defendants, the Board of Trustees of the Village of Orland Park Police Pension Fund, and its members, Charles Cassata, George Gilbert, Ronald Noteboom, John Sullivan and Ted Loutis (collectively referred to as the Board), and after a hearing, the Board denied his application. Plaintiff appealed the denial to the circuit court of Cook County. The court affirmed the Board's decision, and the plaintiff now appeals to this court.

The plaintiff, born in 1952, began working for the Orland Park police department in 1974 as a patrol officer. In January 1979, he became a detective in the investigations unit, and, in October 1981, he was returned to patrol duty, and later assigned to a tactical unit. In 1983, because of several incidents involving the plaintiff, the chief of police, Chief Gorris, ordered him to see John Dietche, a counselor, who was affiliated with the department. Dietche referred Batka to a clinical psychologist, Robert Puls. Plaintiff was also referred to two psychiatrists, Dr. Nyquist, on the recommendation of plaintiff's personal physician, and Dr. Zimbroff, on the recommendation of Chief Gorris. In September 1983, plaintiff was relieved of his duties by Chief Gorris. Thereafter, plaintiff filed this application for disability benefits with the Board, and, at the Board's request, plaintiff was then examined by Dr. Lawton and Dr. Doshi, who were also psychiatrists.

When the hearing before the Board began, plaintiff requested that a certain Board member that plaintiff knew recuse himself, Mr. Gilbert, and he further requested that any other Board members who could not be impartial also recuse themselves (apparently plaintiff knew other Board members as well). Plaintiff argued to the Board that Gilbert, in particular, was biased because plaintiff knew Gilbert and, a few months before the hearing, plaintiff and Gilbert spoke to each other at a party and, during their conversation, Gilbert told plaintiff that he hoped they would not become enemies over the matter pending before the Board. The hearing proceeded and none of the Board members recused themselves.

The evidence which plaintiff offered at the hearing established that he had made numerous complaints to his superiors about various problems he had experienced as a police officer and that the stress from these problems prevented him from performing his duties as a policeman. At the hearing, Batka claimed that his stress was disabling, and that he was accordingly entitled to either "line-of-duty" or "not-on-duty" disability benefits. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 108 1/2, pars. 3-114.1, 3-114.2.) The problems that plaintiff argued entitled him to either a "line-of-duty" or a "not-on-duty" pension included: his excessive work hours and workload as a detective; his inability to take allotted vacation time; his numerous disagreements with the chief of police, Chief Gorris, as a result of Gorris' criticisms of his work performance and his "bad attitude"; his physical problems including his ulcers, headaches, eye irritation, fatigue, and sinus trouble; his disappointment at failing the sergeant's exam, and his resentment towards less senior officers who had passed the exam; his difficulty with a certain case where a two-year-old child, who reminded him of his daughter, had drowned; his problems with the other officers who teased him and referred to him as "Norman Bates" because he was seeing a counselor; his divorce, which was allegedly the result of his problems with his job; and his violent propensities on the job that resulted in certain incidents where he struck prisoners or suspects, or let them injure themselves without justification.

Plaintiff claimed that these problems caused him severe stress, and resulted in ulcers, headaches, fatigue, depression, sleeping disorders, and irritability. He asserted that these problems prevented him from performing his job as a policeman and, thus, entitled him to a pension.

Other testimony at the hearing included the testimony of plaintiff's supervisor in the investigations unit, and the testimony of several psychiatrists, a psychologist, and a counselor who had examined or counseled plaintiff concerning these difficulties. However, the evidence at the hearing also established that plaintiff's workload was not excessively high when compared to that of the other detectives working for the Village, and that, contrary to plaintiff's allegations, he had, in fact, taken a number of consecutive paid days off. Other evidence at the hearing indicated that plaintiff had handled other homicides and suicides in addition to that of the two-year-old girl and that, apparently, plaintiff's extreme reaction to the child's death was an isolated incident. Finally, the plaintiff admitted, in his own testimony, that he had been a heavy drinker in the past.

All of the doctors and counselors that examined plaintiff agreed that he was suffering from stress, much of which was centered on his problems with Chief Gorris, but they disagreed on whether plaintiff could continue to work as a police officer. The specific recommendations of those persons who had examined plaintiff were varied. Dr. Nyquist, a psychiatrist who saw plaintiff from August 1983 to March 1984, testified and recommended that plaintiff not be employed in police work anywhere because of his personality structure and the stress of the job. Dr. Nyquist stated that he believed that the plaintiff's condition could manifest itself in another job and that plaintiff's divorce and his drinking exacerbated his problems; he felt that if plaintiff continued in police work, it could cause him to "explode" or harm someone.

Dr. Zimbroff, a psychiatrist, also evaluated plaintiff twice in August 1983. He testified that in his opinion, plaintiff needed "fairly intensive psychotherapy" due to his stress, but he felt that plaintiff had sufficient strength to properly function as a policeman. Dr. Zimbroff also noted in his testimony that, from his experience in examining other police officers, he had observed that complaints such as the plaintiff's were similar to those of other officers.

A report by Dr. Lawton, another psychiatrist who saw plaintiff once in May 1985, at the Board's request, was also admitted into evidence. Dr. Lawton's recommendation, in his report, was that plaintiff not return to police duty until his psychological problems were resolved. In addition, a report by Dr. Doshi, a psychiatrist who saw plaintiff twice in January 1985, at the Board's request, was also admitted into evidence. In his report, Dr. Doshi concluded that plaintiff's problems "practically precludehim from resuming his work as a police officer." Robert Puls, a nonregistered clinical psychologist, *fn1 also saw plaintiff once in May 1983. ...

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