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12/04/97 VENDETTA JACKSON v. RETIREMENT BOARD

December 4, 1997

VENDETTA JACKSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
RETIREMENT BOARD OF THE POLICEMEN'S ANNUITY AND BENEFIT FUND OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. THE HONORABLE JOHN K. MADDEN, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Released for Publication January 22, 1998.

The Honorable Justice South delivered the opinion of the court. Hartman and P.j., and Hoffman, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: South

The Honorable Justice SOUTH delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiff, Vendetta Jackson, was appointed a member of the City of Chicago Police Department on December 16, 1985, and was injured in the course of training on January 24, 1986. On June 24, 1993, the Retirement Board of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago (the Board) granted Jackson full duty disability benefits.

On February 23, 1995, the Board held a disability status review hearing. Prior to the admission of any substantive evidence, Jackson objected to the proceedings based upon the fact that two of the Board members resided in the same building in which she resided and had provided the Board with information regarding their own observations of Jackson's physical activities. One of the Board members who lived in the same building as Jackson was not present at the hearing. The other Board member, Mr. Thulis, responded that he did not live in the same building as Jackson but, nevertheless, voluntarily recused himself from the hearing.

During the hearing, Jackson testified that as of June 24, 1994, the date when she was granted duty disability benefits, she had been involved in physical therapy at River City Certified Physical Therapy. She went there three times a week to maintain her right leg at a certain performance level until she was released into a maintenance home program around August of 1994.

Jackson further testified that she saw Dr. Preston Wolin at Worker Rehabilitation Services in Chicago on December 5, 1994. Jackson was evaluated for eight hours and a seven page report concluded that Jackson's physical restrictions were permanent and that she did not have the physical capabilities of returning to work as a police officer. This report was submitted to the Board. Dr. Wolin agreed with the conclusion of the report and also submitted a letter to the Board regarding Jackson's August 5, 1994, visit.

When questioned by the Board, Jackson testified in pertinent part, that she does not participate in physical sports but she did participate in a neighborhood fund raiser which involved a walkathon wherein she completed a three mile course in approximately one hour. She further testified that walking is part of her therapy and that she has three different braces she uses for her knee, depending on the situation involved, and that during this walkathon she was wearing a knee brace.

Dr. Alfred Akkeron, called by the Board, testified that he examined Jackson on August 9, 1994, at his office in Melrose Park. He testified that after reviewing Jackson's surgical reports and his physical examination of her, it was his opinion that she could return to her regular duties as a police officer.

On cross-examination, Dr. Akkeron testified that he did not recall whether there was any descriptive report or information with Jackson's records which outlined the physical requirements and demands for a Chicago police officer. Dr. Akkeron further testified that his report was inaccurate inasmuch as it indicated that his exam was of Jackson's left knee. Dr. Akkeron acknowledged that Jackson's injury was actually on the right knee. He explained this discrepancy by stating that he did not read his own report but merely signed it. Dr. Akkeron testified that in reaching his opinion, he did not consider the opinion of Dr. Wolin that Jackson did not have the physical capabilities of returning to work as a police officer and that her physical restrictions were permanent.

Jean Blake, called by Jackson, testified that she is the medical administrator for the Chicago Police Department and as part of her duties she certifies whether or not police officers are fit to return to unrestricted police duties. Blake testified that because of the conflicting opinions of Dr. Wolin and Dr. Akkeron, she would get an independent orthopedic evaluation and would also send Jackson for a second functional capacity evaluation at a different vendor.

After considering the evidence, the Board voted to remove Jackson from the duty disability rolls of their fund. Jackson filed a timely petition for administrative review. On July 26, 1996, the circuit court affirmed the Board's decision. Jackson filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied. This appeal followed. We affirm.

As a preliminary matter, the Board directs our attention to Jackson's notice of appeal. The Board contends that Jackson's notice of appeal fails to identify the July 26, 1996, order affirming the Board's decision and does not describe the relief sought on appeal. The Board argues that Jackson's notice of appeal specifies only the circuit court's order of October 4, 1996, which denied ...


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