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Vaughn v. City of Carbondale

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

March 25, 2015

JEFFREY W. VAUGHN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THE CITY OF CARBONDALE, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County. No. 12-MR-172. Honorable Kimberly L. Dahlen, Judge, presiding.

For Appellant: Patrick T. Sharpe, Maurizio & Sharpe, Marion, IL.

For Appellee: P. Michael Kimmel, City Attorney, City of Carbondale, Carbondale, IL.

JUSTICE WELCH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cates and Justice Goldenhersh concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 669

WELCH, JUSTICE.

[¶1] The plaintiff, Jeffrey Vaughn, sought a permanent injunction to prevent the defendant, the City of Carbondale, from terminating his employer-provided health insurance coverage in accordance with section 10 of the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (the Act) (820 ILCS 320/10 (West 2012)). The circuit court of Jackson County entered an order denying the complaint. For the reasons which follow, we reverse the decision of the circuit court and remand for further proceedings.

[¶2] On June 28, 2005, the plaintiff, who was a police officer for the City of Carbondale (the City), was on duty when he was stopped by a motorist asking for directions. While he was outside his squad car talking with the motorist, he received a request from a police dispatcher for him to respond over the radio. He returned to his vehicle and reached headfirst through his driver's side door, which he had left open, in an attempt to retrieve his radio from inside the car. As he was reaching inside the vehicle, he struck the top of his

Page 670

head on the door frame, causing him to " see stars" and experience an immediate sharp pain in his arm. After his shift, he sought medical attention from his personal physician, who took him off duty as a result of his injury.

[¶3] Thereafter, in April 2007, the plaintiff applied for a line-of-duty disability pension pursuant to section 3-114.1 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/3-114.1 (West 2006)). Following a hearing on his application, the Carbondale Police Pension Board (the Board) made a finding that the plaintiff was not injured as a result of his employment with the police department. The plaintiff appealed the decision of the Board, and the circuit court of Jackson County reversed the Board's decision, concluding that the evidence supported the finding that the plaintiff was injured during the course of his employment and was therefore eligible for a line-of-duty pension. This court affirmed the circuit court's decision on May 25, 2011. Vaughn v. Carbondale Police Pension Board, No. 5-10-0293 (2011) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

[¶4] As a result of the plaintiff's duty-related disability, the plaintiff, in a letter dated January 26, 2012, requested that the City provide him health insurance coverage in accordance with section 10 of the Act (820 ILCS 320/10 (West 2012)), which provides health insurance coverage for injured law enforcement officers and their families under certain circumstances. Shortly thereafter, the City provided the plaintiff and his wife with health insurance coverage without any objection. In 2012, the Board directed the plaintiff to submit to a physical examination as required by the Illinois Pension Code. The plaintiff complied. After receiving the medical report rendered as a result of the medical examination, the Board met to determine whether the plaintiff's line-of-duty pension benefits should be continued or terminated. The Board thereafter filed a decision, which terminated the plaintiff's pension payments effective July 26, 2012, in light of the medical examiner's finding that the plaintiff was able to return to work as a police officer. In July 2012, the Board sent the plaintiff a letter advising him of its decision.

[¶5] In August 2012, the plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review in the circuit court of Jackson County, cause No. 12-MR-156. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision to terminate the plaintiff's disability pension benefits. The plaintiff then appealed to this court, which, on June 30, 2014, reversed the circuit court's decision on the basis that the plaintiff was denied procedural due process where he was not given notice and an opportunity to be heard before the Board terminated his pension benefits. Vaughn v. Carbondale Police Pension Board, 2014 IL App. (5th) 130457-U. This court did not address the issue of whether the Board's determination that the plaintiff was no longer disabled was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

[¶6] While the appeal on the termination of the plaintiff's disability pension benefits in cause No. 12-MR-156 was pending, the plaintiff filed the complaint at issue in this appeal, which sought a permanent injunction preventing the City from terminating his employer-provided health insurance coverage. After considering the briefs submitted by the parties and the circuit court's decision in cause No. 12-MR-156, the circuit court declined to enter a permanent injunction. The court found that the plaintiff had not suffered a catastrophic injury, which was required ...


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