Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
On Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CH 17755. Honorable Sophia M. Hall, Judge presiding.
The denial of plaintiff firefighter/paramedic's application for a duty disability pension by the board of trustees of defendant firefighters' pension fund was reversed, since the board found that plaintiff was permanently disabled based on his testimony and the medical evidence regarding the back injury he suffered while performing CPR in response to an emergency call, but then, despite any inconsistencies or contradictions in his testimony, the board found plaintiff incredible based on his courtroom demeanor, and based on those circumstances, including the absence of any medical evidence supporting the board's ultimate decision, its determination was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence.
For Plaintiff-Appellant: Corrine Watson, Anthony G. Argeros, LLC, Glenview, Illinois.
For Defendants-Appellees: Barbara A. Adams, Betsy L. Gates, Holland & Knight LLP, Chicago, IL.
JUSTICE SIMON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Harris[*] and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶2] Plaintiff, Gabriel Scepurek, a lieutenant and firefighter/paramedic with the Village of Northbrook Fire Department for over 20 years, sued the Board of Trustees of the Northbrook Firefighters' Pension Fund (Board) alleging that the Board wrongfully denied his application for a duty disability pension on April 10, 2012, despite the fact that all medical opinions unanimously agreed that plaintiff suffered an on-the-job injury that left him unable to perform his regular duties and permanently disabled. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision in an order dated March 8, 2013, and stated " for reasons stated on the record, the court affirms the Final Order and Decision of the defendants, Board of Trustees of the Northbrook Firefighters' Pension Fund and its members." There is no transcript of the March 8, 2013 court's proceedings in the original record. Plaintiff has not provided a transcript or summary of the court's stated reasons as a part of the record on appeal. The defendant attached the transcript of the circuit court's remarks from the March 8, 2013 proceedings as an appendix to its brief. " [T]he record on appeal cannot be supplemented by attaching documents to a brief or including them in an appendix." McCarty v. Weatherford, 362 Ill.App.3d 308, 311, 838 N.E.2d 337, 297 Ill.Dec. 850 (2005).
Neither party followed court rules and attempted to make the transcript a part of the official record on appeal. However, because this court reviews the Board's decision, not the circuit court's decision, this failure is not fatal to plaintiff's appeal.
[¶3] Supreme Court Rule 329 (Ill. S.Ct. R. 329 (eff. Jan. 1, 2006)) allows the parties to " supplement the record on appeal to include omissions, correct errors, and settle controversies as to whether the record accurately reflects what occurred in the trial court." Jones v. Ford Motor Co., 347 Ill.App.3d 176, 180, 807 N.E.2d 520, 282 Ill.Dec. 896 (2004). Although plaintiff's opening brief had already been filed before the defendant attached the transcript as an appendix to its responsive brief, we believe this supplement, even at this late date, does not unfairly prejudice the plaintiff, who was represented at the hearing. Consequently, we amend the record pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 329 to include the March 8, 2013 transcript of the circuit court's proceedings. Ill. S.Ct. R. 329 (eff. Jan. 1, 2006); McCarty v. Weatherford, 362 Ill.App.3d 308, 313, 838 N.E.2d 337, 297 Ill.Dec. 850 (2005).
[¶4] Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal on April 2, 2013. Ill. S.Ct. R. 303(a) (eff. June 4. 2008).
[¶6] Plaintiff is employed by the Village of Northbrook as a firefighter/paramedic. He has been so employed since August 21, 1987 and currently holds the rank of lieutenant. By application dated November 16, 2010, plaintiff filed for duty-related disability pension benefits alleging that he is permanently disabled and unable to perform the duties of a firefighter/paramedic due to an on-the-job back injury he received on May 26, 2010 at 2:45 a.m., while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a patient on the floor of a bathroom in response to an emergency call. Plaintiff pursued his application for disability benefits by presenting evidence that the May 26, 2010 back injury is a stand-alone injury that was, at least in part, responsible for his permanent disability and/or that the May 25, 2010 back injury exacerbated many prior back injuries he received on the job while performing his firefighter/paramedic functions over the past 23 plus years.
[¶7] Plaintiff testified to receiving prior duty-related back injuries on June 8, 1989; June 28, 1991; January 11, 1995; October 2, 1995; January 7, 1998; March 2, 1998; September 4, 2007; January 7, 2008; February 21, 2008; March 17, 2008; October 19, 2008; March 9, 2009; and July 13, 2009; along with submission of official reports.
[¶8] As a result of the May 25, 2010 back injury, contemporaneous official reports were filed that documented the CPR incident that plaintiff was involved in that triggered his back injury. One such report, written by plaintiff's coworker, firefighter/paramedic Chris Goer, and additionally witnessed by firefighter/paramedic Marinier states:
" E11 and A11 were called to 270 Skokie Blvd. for cardiac arrest. VA nursing staff was performing CPR on the pt. We took over CPR immediately. Pt. was lying on floor half way in bath room. When Lt. Scepurek was asked to assist w/CPR he jumped right in. After several minutes of chest compressions he stated that his back was beginning to tighten up . After aggressive resusitative efforts to bring pt. back, the hospital ordered us to withdraw our efforts. At this time, Lt. ...