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Nelson v. Industrial Commission

June 01, 1999

JOHN M. NELSON APPELLANT,
v.
THE INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION ET AL. (THE VILLAGE OF WINNETKA, APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rakowski

Industrial Commission Division

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Honorable Joanne L. Lanigan, Judge Presiding.

In February 1992, we held in Village of Winnetka v. Industrial Comm'n, 232 Ill. App. 3d 351 (1992), that once a municipality enacts an ordinance pursuant to section 22-306 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/1- 101 et seq. (West 1996)), section 22-307 of the Pension Code precludes an injured fire fighter or police officer employed by that municipality from pursuing workers' compensation benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 1996)). However, in November 1992, the General Assembly amended section 22-307 to expressly allow injured fire fighters and police officers to pursue workers' compensation benefits even though their municipal employer enacted an ordinance pursuant to section 22-306.

In the instant case, claimant, John M. Nelson, a fire fighter employed by the Village of Winnetka, filed multiple applications for adjustment of claim pursuant to the Act for a herniated disk sustained in 1985 and subsequent aggravation of that condition through 1987. The arbitrator found that the claims were barred pursuant to the Village of Winnetka decision. The Industrial Commission (Commission) affirmed, and the trial court confirmed the Commission's decision.

On appeal, claimant contends that the former version of section 22- 307, which applies to his case, should be read as section 22-307 now exists with the 1997 amendment. We disagree, finding that the General Assembly sought to change the law when it amended section 22-307. Therefore, we affirm.

I. Recovery of Benefits for Fire Fighters Injured in the Line of Duty and the Village of Winnetka Decision

The extent of a fire fighter's recovery for injuries sustained in the line of duty before November 12, 1997, depends on whether his municipal employer enacted an ordinance pursuant to section 22-306 of the Pension Code. An injured fire fighter employed by a municipality without an ordinance enacted pursuant to section 22-306 may file a claim under the Act. On the other hand, in Village of Winnetka, this court held that where a municipality enacts an ordinance pursuant to section 22-306, section 22-307 bars an injured fire fighter from pursuing benefits under the Act. 232 Ill App. 3d at 354-55.

Section 22-306 provides in pertinent part:

"The corporate authorities of any city or the village may provide by ordinance that in case of an accident resulting in an injury to or death of a policeman or fireman in the employ of such city or village while in the performance of his duties, the officer at the head of the department or such other officer as may be designated may secure and provide proper medical care and hospital treatment for any such policeman or fireman. The city or village may incur the expense aforesaid and appropriate and pay for the same." 40 ILCS 5/22-306 (West 1996).

Before November 12, 1997, section 22-307 provided in pertinent part:

"Whenever any city or village enacts an ordinance pursuant to this Division, no common law or statutory right to recover damages against such city or village for injury or death sustained by any policeman or fireman while engaged in the line of his duty as such policeman or fireman, other than the payment of the allowances of money and of the medical care and hospital treatment provided in such ordinance, shall be available to any policeman or fireman who is covered by the provisions of such ordinance, or to anyone wholly or partially dependent upon such policeman or fireman, or to the legal representative of the estate of such policeman or fireman, or to anyone who would otherwise be entitled to recover damages for such injury or death." (Emphasis added.) 40 ILCS 5/22-307 (West 1996).

Effective November 12, 1997, section 22-307 lacks any language barring statutory actions and expressly states that nothing in the Pension Code prevents a fire fighter who works for a municipality with a population under 500,000 from recovering under the Act. See Pub. Act 90-525, eff. November 12, 1997 (amending 40 ILCS 5/22-307(West 1996)). Thus, municipalities that have enacted ordinances pursuant to section 22-306 are no longer exempt from injured fire fighters and police officers' workers' compensation claims.

According to the legislative history, the amendment was intended to address the effects of Village of Winnetka. 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, March 20, 1997, at 80; 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, October 30, 1997, at 6. Evidently when the General Assembly revamped the Act in 1975 to include employees of counties and municipalities, it intended that all fire fighters and police officers would be covered by the Act. 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, March 20, 1997, at 80; 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, October 30, 1997, at 6. However, the General Assembly neglected to align section 22-307 of the Pension Code pursuant to this objective. 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, March 20, 1997, at 80; 90th Ill. Gen. Assem., Senate Proceedings, October 30, 1997, at 6. As a result, section 22-307 continued to preclude fire fighters and police officers from collecting workers' compensation benefits for ...


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