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Village of Alsip v. Portincaso

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

May 5, 2017

THE VILLAGE OF ALSIP, Plaintiff-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 14 CH 18605 Honorable David B. Atkins, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Gordon and Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          HALL JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 This is an appeal from the final judgment entered on September 30, 2015, by the circuit court of Cook County, which reversed the Board of Trustees of the Alsip Police Pension Fund's award of a line-of-duty disability pension to plaintiff James Portincaso.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, the parties raise several issues for review; however, we only address the dispositive issues of (1) whether the Board of Trustees of the Alsip Police Pension Fund (Pension Board) abused its discretion in denying the Village of Alsip's (Village's) petition to intervene, and (2) whether the decision in the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (Commission) litigation precluded the redetermination of whether James Portincaso was injured on December 11, 2010. Because we answer both questions in the affirmative, we recite only those facts relevant to the disposition of these issues.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 James Portincaso has been a member of the Alsip Police Department since November 4, 2000. On December 11, 2010, Portincaso responded to a domestic violence call. Once on the scene, an intoxicated man charged his father, and Portincaso physically intervened. As a result, both the man and Portincaso fell to the ground and a struggle ensued. Portincaso called for assistance over the police radio, and eventually, he and another officer were able to arrest the intoxicated man. The following morning, Portincaso awoke with back pain and proceeded to visit his chiropractor.

         ¶ 5 On March 25, 2011, Portincaso filed a claim for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act (Compensation Act) (820 ILCS 305/1 et seq. (West 2010)). The Village challenged Portincaso's claim that he was entitled to workers' compensation benefits, and on September 20, 2011, the arbitrator ruled in favor of the Village finding, inter alia, that Portincaso's "condition of ill-being" was not causally related to the 2010 arrest. Subsequently, Portincaso appealed the arbitrator's decision to the Commission. The Commission affirmed the arbitrator's decision, and the circuit court entered a judgment confirming the Commission's decision. Portincaso responded by appealing the circuit court's judgment in Portincaso v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Comm'n, 2014 IL App (1st) 130468WC-U (unpublished summary order under Supreme Court Rule 23(c)).

         ¶ 6 During the pendency of his workers' compensation case, Portincaso submitted his application for disability pension benefits to the Pension Board on February 21, 2012, for injuries allegedly sustained during the 2010 arrest. The Pension Board proceedings began on June 19, 2013, and the Village filed its petition to intervene on June 26, 2013. The Village claimed that it had not received notice of the proceedings until after the first day of hearings, and it sought intervention for the purpose of presenting evidence that Portincaso's injury was not duty related and was not related to his employment. In response, Portincaso argued that the Village's petition was untimely and failed to demonstrate any basis for intervening or that its interests would be adversely affected by a ruling from the Pension Board. Portincaso also contended that any findings by the Commission could not have any collateral estoppel effect on his application for a line-of-duty disability pension.

         ¶ 7 On February 27, 2014, the Pension Board voted to deny the Village's petition to intervene. On March 3, 2014, the reviewing court affirmed the Commission. See Portincaso, 2014 IL App (1st) 130468WC- U.Subsequently, on March 26, 2014, the Village filed a combined motion for reconsideration and a motion to dismiss on the basis of collateral estoppel. The Village claimed it had a substantial interest in the proper expenditure of public funds and in not becoming liable for remuneration under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (Benefits Act) (820 ILCS 320/1 et seq. (West 2012)). The Village also contended that Portincaso was collaterally stopped from relitigating the issue of whether his injuries were a result of the 2010 arrest; in support of its contentions, the Village attached a copy of the arbitrator's decision and the order that had been issued by the reviewing court in Portincaso, 2014 IL App (1st) 130468WC-U, to its combined motion.

         ¶ 8 On May 1, 2014, the parties appeared before the Pension Board and argued the merits of the Village's motions. The Pension Board called a vote on the Village's motion to intervene which ended in a 2-2 tie. In response, the Village renewed its motions for the next hearing date when all five members of the Pension Board would be present. On June 18, 2014, the Pension Board called another vote and voted to deny the Village's motion for reconsideration. In reaching its decision, the Pension Board found Portincaso's injury to be related to his employment, that he was injured in an "act of police duty inherently involving special risk not ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life." The Pension Board also concluded that the Village's motion to dismiss was moot because the Village was not a party to the proceeding and lacked standing to bring the motion. On November 18, 2014, the Village sought administrative review, and on September 30, 2015, the circuit court reversed the Pension Board's decision. Village of Alsip v. Portincaso, No. 14- CH-18605 (Cir. Ct. Cook Co.). The circuit court found Portincaso's line of duty award was premised on the finding that his injuries arose out of the 2010 arrest, which had already been litigated in front of the Commission. As a result, the circuit court found collateral estoppel applied to bar Portincaso from relitigating the question of whether he was injured during the 2010 arrest in front of the Pension Board. The circuit court declined to address the issue of whether or not the Village should have been permitted to intervene. Subsequently, Portincaso filed his notice of appeal on October 30, 2015.

         ¶ 9 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 10 I. Standard of Review

         ¶ 11 Our review of the Pension Board's decision is governed by the Administrative Review Law (735 ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2014)). 40 ILCS 5/3-148 (West 2014); Village of Stickney v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund, 347 Ill.App.3d 845, 848 (2004). On appeals from administrative review proceedings, this Court reviews the decision of the administrative agency, not of the circuit court. Illinois Health Maintenance Organization Guaranty Ass'n v. Department of Insurance, 372 Ill.App.3d 24, 31 (2007); see also Wade v. City of North Chicago Police Pension Board, 226 Ill.2d 485, 504 (2007). Where there is no question of fact, and the issue is solely one of law, we review the agency's decision de novo. Stickney, 347 Ill.App.3d at 848 (citing Martino v. Police Pension Board, 331 ...

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