The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hourihane
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.
The Honorable Robert V. Boharic, Judge, Presiding.
Petitioner, Kathleen McManamon, appeals from an order of the circuit court affirming a decision of the Retirement Board of the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund for the City of Chicago (Board), denying her duty disability benefits (40 ILCS 5/5-154 (West 1996)). McManamon argues that the Board's decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that the Board violated the provisions of section 156 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/5-156 (West 1996)), depriving her of a fair trial.
On November 6, 1994, McManamon, a Chicago police officer, filed a claim with the Board seeking duty disability benefits in connection with injuries she sustained during an on-duty altercation on October 17, 1993. At the evidentiary hearing before the Board, McManamon testified that she was appointed to the police force on November 29, 1982. On October 17, 1993, while performing her duties as a patrol officer, she was involved in an altercation in which she was struck in the chest and fell backward, landing on her buttocks, twisting her left knee, and striking her head on the sidewalk. At the hospital, she was given a pain killer and discharged. At the time, she had pain in her left ankle, left knee, back, head, and neck. McManamon did not return to work following this injury and, on January 31, 1994, she was involved in an off-duty altercation in which she sustained a fractured nasal bone, a fractured right clavicle, and a concussion.
Following the 1993 injury, the police department's medical section sent McManamon to Dr. Fahrenbach. She complained of neck pain, low back pain, and numbness in two fingers on her right hand. In November 1993, Dr. Fahrenbach prescribed MRIs of her cervical spine and left knee. The MRI of the knee was normal; the MRI of the spine revealed a disc herniation at C5-6. Prior to the 1994 injury, Dr. Fahrenbach did not give her any indication as to whether he thought she was progressing toward returning to work. Her back pain was getting progressively worse and, in the third week of January 1994, he had recommended an MRI.
McManamon further testified that in February 1995, she was referred by the Board to Dr. Akkeron. McManamon disagreed with the results in Dr. Akkeron's report that she "has a full neck flexion, extension, left and right rotation, and lateral bending." She also testified that his finding in his report that none of these motions caused any pain, muscle tightness or spasm was in error.
Following her examination by Dr. Akkeron, McManamon saw Dr. Fahrenbach several times. He has told her that if she returns to work and sustains another neck injury, she would probably have permanent damage to some nerves.
At the time of the hearing, McManamon was a full-time student in the veterinary school at the University of Illinois in Champaign, which she began in August 1994. Other than exercises for her lower back, she does not engage in any physical activities. She continues to have numbness in her right hand, limited range of motion in her neck, and pain in her neck and low back. She has trouble straightening up after sitting for long periods of times, and cannot run or go down stairs without back and neck pain.
Dr. Alfred Akkeron, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that he examined McManamon on February 9, 1995. The appointment was made by the Board. He took a history, did a physical examination, a neurologic examination, and reviewed her prior medical file. Dr. Akkeron opined that McManamon could return to full duty.
Dr. S. David Demorest, the Board's physician, testified that he examined McManamon on December 28, 1994. It was his opinion that prior to the 1994 injury, her condition was improving, that objective evidence supporting her subjective complaints was lacking, and that she could return to work. However, he enlisted the aid of Dr. Akkeron, whom he has known for 10 or 12 years.
Dr. Gregory Fahrenbach, an orthopedic surgeon, first saw McManamon on October 18, 1993. His examination confirmed her complaints. She had loss of motion in her neck, loss of motion in her back with spasms, and a swollen left knee. Dr. Fahrenbach prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication, a ...