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Jason Goodman v. Morton Grove Police Pension Board

February 8, 2012

JASON GOODMAN,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MORTON GROVE POLICE PENSION BOARD, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CH 51381 Honorable Michael B. Hyman, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Murphy

JUSTICE MURPHY delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Steele and Justice Salone concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 On October 22, 2006, plaintiff, Jason Goodman, a police officer for the Village of Morton Grove, injured his left knee while conducting a traffic stop. The injury required arthroscopic surgery in November 2006 and microfracture surgery in 2007. Goodman continued to complain of pain and reduced function in his knee. On February 8, 2009, Goodman filed an application for disability pension with defendant Morton Grove Police Pension Board (Board) pursuant to the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2008)). Following examination by physicians and a hearing on the matter, the Board issued a decision and order on November 8, 2010, denying plaintiff's application for a line-of-duty disability pension (40 ILCS 5/3-114.1 (West 2008)) or not-in-duty disability pension (40 ILCS 5/3-114.2 (West 2008)) .

¶ 2 Pursuant to the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2008)), Goodman sought administrative review of the Board's decision and order in the circuit court of Cook County. Following the Board's answer and briefing by the parties, the trial court reversed the Board's decision as against the manifest weight of the evidence and remanded the matter for a hearing on the causation of Goodman's injury. The Board issued an order indicating that Goodman's disability resulted from an act of police duty. On May 25, 2011, the trial court entered a final order reversing the Board's decision as against the manifest weight of the evidence. The Board filed a notice of appeal that same day and argues that its decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. For the following reasons, we reverse the order of the trial court and affirm the decision of the Board.

¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 4 A. Goodman's Application for Disability Pension and Prehearing Objection

¶ 5 Goodman filed his application for certificate of disability with the Board on February 8, 2009, seeking placement on the police pension roll under a disability pension. At the commencement of the hearing, counsel for Goodman objected to the inclusion of a September 2009 discrimination charge made by Goodman against the Board. Counsel argued that this charge had no bearing on the determination of Goodman's disability. Counsel for the Board asserted that the claim went to Goodman's credibility because he asserted that he had been denied pension benefits even though that had not occurred. The document was admitted over objection, with the hearing officer specifically stating that the discrimination claim itself would not be considered, but it would only be referenced for the language of the complaint.

¶ 6 B. Administrative Hearing

¶ 7 Goodman testified at the hearing that he had been employed as a police officer for the Village of Morton Grove since May 4, 1998. His duties as a patrol officer included traffic stops, security checks, and premise checks. On October 22, 2006, he sustained his knee injury when he stepped in a crevice in the pavement exiting his squad car and his knee gave out. Goodman notified his supervisor, who met him at the scene, and was then taken to Lutheran General Hospital. At the hospital, Goodman provided his medical history, was examined and was referred to an orthopedic specialist. Goodman testified that he had injured his knee while in the Army requiring arthroscopic surgery in 1995. He returned to duty and remained in the Army, until he was honorably discharged in 1998. Goodman testified that he did not have issues with the knee again until his injury on October 22, 2006.

¶ 8 Goodman was examined by the specialist and given an MRI. The MRI indicated that Goodman had suffered a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament and degenerative changes in the medial compartment. On November 27, 2006, Drs. John Lyon and Arif Ali performed arthroscopic surgery on Goodman to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament. Following physical therapy, he returned to work but experienced continued pain and decreased range of motion. He also had problems running, using stairs, squatting or stooping, and other activities requiring him to bend his knee.

¶ 9 Goodman testified that a second procedure, microfracture surgery, was completed by Dr. Ali. He again underwent physical therapy, but continued to have the same issues with his knee as before. On Dr. Ali's recommendation, Goodman consulted Dr. James Bresch, who determined that the microfracture procedure failed and recommended a third surgery, either knee replacement or a cadaveric transplant. Goodman testified that he was uncomfortable with these surgeries as well as the number of surgeries he had already undergone. On June 27, 2008, Dr. Ali advised Goodman that he was at maximum recovery and opined that he would not be able to return to work as a police officer. Goodman testified that he was not offered light duty work and filed his application for disability.

ΒΆ 10 Goodman was questioned concerning his application for disability pension with the Veteran's Administration in 2001. Goodman testified that this application was in response to his medical records being lost and his concern that his knee injury and oral surgery during his time with the Army be documented in the event of future complications. He was awarded a partial disability pension of 10% in August 2007. In addition, Goodman testified that in September 2009, he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discrimination complaint against the Village of ...


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