from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 08-MR-437.
Honorable J. Edward Prochaska, Judge, Presiding.
Denham, of City of Rockford Department of Law, of Rockford,
G. Ruud, of Thomas G. Ruud & Associates, P.C., of
Rockford, for appellee.
BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justice Jorgensen concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice McLaren concurred in part and dissented in part in
the judgment, with opinion.
[¶1] Defendant, the City of Rockford,
appeals from the entry of summary judgment in favor of
plaintiff, William Bremer, and the denial of Rockford's
cross-motion for summary judgment, on Bremer's claim for
health care benefits under the Public Safety Employee
Benefits Act (Benefits Act) (820 ILCS 320/1 et seq.
(West 2008)). In another proceeding, Bremer, a firefighter
suffering from a heart condition, obtained an occupational
disease disability pension under section 4-110.1 of the
Illinois Pension Code (Pension Code) (see 40 ILCS 5/4-110.1
(West 2008)). In this case, the trial court ruled that the
pension qualified him for benefits under section 10 of the
Benefits Act. On appeal, Rockford argues that the trial court
erred in granting Bremer summary judgment on his claim under
section 10, because (1) his eligibility for the occupational
disease disability pension does not mean that he suffered a
" catastrophic injury," which is required for
health care benefits (see 820 ILCS 320/10(a) (West 2008)),
and (2) Bremer's injury did not result from his "
response to what is reasonably believed to be an
emergency," which is also required (see 820 ILCS
320/10(b) (West 2008)). We hold that an occupational disease
disability pension granted under section 4-110.1 of the
Pension Code satisfies the " catastrophic injury"
element of section 10(a), but that a question of fact
regarding section 10(b) precludes summary judgment for Bremer
on his claim for health care benefits under the Benefits Act.
[¶2] Bremer cross-appeals from the trial
court's orders denying his claim under the Attorneys Fees
in Wage Actions Act (Wage Actions Act) (705 ILCS 225/1 et
seq. (West 2008)) and dismissing portions of his claim
for damages arising out of unpaid health insurance premiums
and medical expenses that he incurred while uninsured. We
agree with the trial court that, as a matter of law, Bremer
is not entitled to recover attorney fees under the Wage
Actions Act, because, even if he were to prevail on his claim
for postemployment health care benefits under the Benefits
Act, those benefits would not qualify as " wages earned
and due and owing according to the terms of the
employment." 705 ILCS 225/1 (West 2008). We further hold
that Bremer's claim for unpaid health insurance premiums
and medical expenses is not ripe for adjudication, because
there is no longer a judgment requiring Rockford to pay
health insurance premiums for Bremer or his wife.
[¶3] In sum, we affirm the trial court's
order denying Bremer's request for attorney fees. We
reverse the entry of summary judgment for Bremer on his claim
brought under section 10 of the Benefits Act. We vacate the
rulings on Bremer's claim for unpaid health insurance
premiums and medical expenses, and we remand the cause for
further proceedings on that claim.
[¶5] Rockford hired Bremer as a firefighter
in 1976. On May 12, 2004, Bremer filed an application with
the City of Rockford Firefighters' Pension Board (Board),
seeking an occupational disease disability pension pursuant
to section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code (see 40 ILCS 5/4-110.1
(West 2008)). Bremer presented evidence that his
cardiomyopathy rendered him unable to work as a firefighter.
[¶6] On February 1, 2007, the Board granted
Bremer's application for an occupational disease
disability pension under section 4-110.1 of the Pension Code.
The Board found that Bremer was a firefighter
with more than five years of creditable service who was
rendered disabled as a result of a disease of the heart,
cardiomyopathy, which resulted from service in the fire
department. The Board found that Bremer had been exposed to
chemicals and toxins while fighting fires and that he had
experienced heavy to very heavy exertion during emergency
calls when he entered fires, lifted people and equipment,
overhauled fire scenes, and responded to ambulance calls. The
Board also found that Bremer's disability was permanent.
Bremer's pension was effective January 5, 2005.
[¶7] Pursuant to a city ordinance, Rockford
paid health insurance premiums as a benefit for Bremer and
his wife, Sally, from January 2005 through February 2008. On
February 21, 2008, Rockford informed Bremer that, on March 1,
2008, Rockford would no longer pay the premiums, which were
approximately $1,100 per month. Rockford directed Bremer to
pay the premiums himself, from his pension checks, if he
wished to maintain the benefits.
[¶8] On March 20, 2008, Bremer applied to
Rockford for the payment of health insurance premiums
pursuant to the Benefits Act. Bremer supplemented the
application with the Board's finding that he was disabled
and entitled to an occupational disease disability pension.
[¶9] Following an informal meeting with
Bremer, Rockford denied the application on the basis that
Bremer had not suffered a " catastrophic injury" as
required by section 10(a) of the Benefits Act (see 820 ILCS
320/10(a) (West 2008)). Rockford determined that, although a
line-of-duty pension under section 4-110 of the Pension Code
is synonymous with a " catastrophic injury," the
occupational disability pension that Bremer received under
section 4-110.1 is not.
[¶10] On June 1, 2008, Bremer filed a
two-count complaint for a declaratory judgment and attorney
fees in the trial court. Count I sought a declaratory
judgment that the meaning of " catastrophic
injury," as used in section 10(a) of the Benefits Act,
includes " the line-of-duty disability Occupational
Diseases under Section 4-110.1 of the Illinois Pension
Code." Bremer also sought a declaration that Rockford
was obligated to pay future health insurance premiums for him
and Sally and reimburse Bremer for any premiums he paid in
2008. Count II sought attorney fees under the Wage Actions
[¶11] The parties filed cross-motions for
summary judgment as to count I. On April 19, 2011, the trial
court granted Bremer's motion and denied Rockford's
motion, declaring that the occupational disease disability
pension that Bremer received under section 4-110.1 of the
Pension Code qualified him and Sally for health care benefits
under section 10 of the Benefits Act. The trial court ordered
Rockford to reinstitute the health care benefits and to
reimburse Bremer for the premiums he paid after
Rockford's denial of his application.
[¶12] Count II remained pending until
January 23, 2013, when the trial court granted Rockford's
motion for summary judgment, ruling that " [the
Act's] post-employment health insurance benefits do not
qualify as 'wages earned and due and owing according to
the terms of employment,'" such that, as a matter of
law, Bremer was not entitled to recover attorney fees under
the Wage Actions Act.
[¶13] Meanwhile, on May 25, 2011, the trial
court granted Bremer leave to add a count III to the
complaint. Bremer alleged that, during the period in which
Rockford declined to pay the insurance premiums, Bremer could
not afford to pay for health insurance for him and Sally, and
they remained uninsured. During that period, Bremer and Sally
allegedly incurred more than $39,000 in medical expenses, for
which Bremer sought reimbursement. Bremer also sought $38,000
for " the premiums which ought to have been paid but
were not," as he and Sally " were deprived of the
value of these premiums and [Rockford] was unjustly enriched
for failing to comply with its obligations under the
[¶14] In May 2012, Rockford filed a combined
motion to dismiss count III pursuant to sections 2-615 and
2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS
5/2-615, 2-619, 2-619.1 (West 2008)). On September 28, 2012,
pursuant to section 2-615, the trial court dismissed the
claim for $38,000 for unpaid premiums. See 735 ILCS 5/2-615
(West 2008). Pursuant to section 2-619, the court also
dismissed Bremer's claim for approximately $36,000 in
medical expenses relating to a one-car collision involving
Sally. See 735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West 2008). Those expenses had
been paid under Bremer's auto insurance policy, and the
trial court determined that Bremer lacked standing to sue
under the Rights of Married Persons Act, commonly known as
the Family Expense Act. See 750 ILCS 65/15 (West 2008).
Following a hearing on August 9, 2013, regarding health
insurance premiums that Bremer actually paid and other
out-of-pocket medical expenses, the trial court ordered
Rockford to pay Bremer $6,381 plus court costs under count
[¶15] Rockford filed a notice of appeal,
seeking review of the trial court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of Bremer on count I. Bremer filed a
cross-appeal as to the grant of summary judgment on count II
and the dismissed portions of his damages claim under count
A. The Benefits Act
[¶18] Rockford contends that the trial court
erred in granting Bremer's motion for summary judgment,
and denying Rockford's cross-motion, on count I. Summary
judgment is appropriate only when " the pleadings,
depositions, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West
2008). " A triable issue precluding summary judgment
exists where the material facts are disputed, or where, the
material facts being undisputed, reasonable persons might
draw different inferences from the undisputed facts."
Adams v. Northern Illinois Gas Co., 211 Ill.2d 32,
43, 809 N.E.2d 1248, 284 Ill.Dec. 302 (2004). The use of
summary judgment is to be encouraged as an aid in the
expeditious disposition of a lawsuit; however, it is a
drastic means of disposing of litigation and should be
allowed only when the right of the moving party is clear and
free from doubt. Springborn v. Village of Sugar
Grove, 2013 IL App. (2d) 120861, ¶ 24, 997 N.E.2d
643, 375 Ill.Dec. 332 We review de novo a trial
court's grant of summary judgment. Springborn,
2013 IL App. (2d) 120861, ¶ 24.
[¶19] " When parties file cross-motions
for summary judgment, they agree that only a question of law
is involved and invite the court to decide the issues based
on the record." Pielet v. Pielet, 2012 IL
112064, ¶ 28, 978 N.E.2d 1000,
365 Ill.Dec. 497 However, the mere fact that cross-motions
for summary judgment have been filed does not establish that
there is no issue of material fact, nor does it obligate a
court to render summary judgment. Pielet, 2012 IL
112064, ¶ 28.
[¶20] The parties dispute the interpretation
of section 10 of the Benefits Act and sections 4-110 and
4-110.1 of the Pension Code. The fundamental objective of
statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the
intent of the legislature. Blum v. Koster, 235
Ill.2d 21, 29, 919 N.E.2d 333, 335 Ill.Dec. 614 (2009). The
most reliable indicator of legislative intent is the
statutory language, given its plain and ordinary meaning.
Cinkus v. Village of Stickney Municipal Officers
Electoral Board, 228 Ill.2d 200, 216, 886 N.E.2d 1011,
319 Ill.Dec. 887 (2008). When the statutory language is clear
and unambiguous, it must be applied as written without resort
to extrinsic aids of statutory interpretation. MidAmerica
Bank, FSB v. Charter One Bank, FSB, 232 Ill.2d 560, 565,
905 N.E.2d 839, 329 Ill.Dec. 1 (2009). We will not depart
from the plain statutory language by reading into it
exceptions, limitations, or conditions that conflict with the
expressed intent of the legislature. MidAmerica Bank,
FSB, 232 Ill.2d at 565-66.
[¶21] The trial court ordered Rockford to
pay Bremer's health insurance premiums pursuant to
section 10 of the Benefits Act, which provides in relevant
part as follows:
" (a) An employer who employs a full-time law
enforcement, correctional or correctional probation officer,
or firefighter, who, on or after the effective date of this
Act suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of
duty shall pay the entire premium of the employer's
health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured
employee's spouse, and for each dependent child of the
injured employee ***.
* * *
(b) In order for the law enforcement, correctional or
correctional probation officer, firefighter, spouse, or
dependent children to be eligible for insurance coverage
under this Act, the injury or death must have occurred as the
result of the officer's response to fresh pursuit, the
officer or firefighter's response to what is reasonably
believed to be an emergency, an unlawful act perpetrated by
another, or during the investigation of a criminal act.
Nothing in this Section shall be construed to limit health
insurance coverage or pension benefits for which the officer,
firefighter, spouse, or dependent children may otherwise be
eligible." 820 ILCS 320/10 (West 2008).
1. Catastrophic Injury (Section 10(a))
[¶23]a. Line-of-Duty Disability ...