from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 17-MR-172 Honorable Katherine
S. Gorman Hubler, Judge, Presiding.
Attorneys for Appellant: Kenneth M. Snodgrass Jr. and Kevin
O. Sheahan, of Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban &
Wentworth, of Peoria, for appellant.
Attorneys for Appellee: Robert B. McCoy, of Miller, Hall
& Triggs, LLC, of Peoria, for appellee Michael Brooks.
Richard J. Reimer and Mark S. McQueary, of Reimer &
Dobrovolny PC, of Hinsdale, for other appellees.
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Carter and Lytton concurred in the judgment
1 Michael Brooks applied for and received a line of duty
disability pension from the Firefighters' Pension Fund of
the City of Peoria (Pension Board). The City of Peoria (City)
was denied permission to intervene in the Pension Board's
proceedings. In the circuit court of Peoria County, the City
filed a complaint for administrative review of both the
Pension Board's denial of the City's petitions for
intervention and the grant of Brooks' line of duty
disability pension. The circuit court affirmed these
decisions of the Pension Board after Brooks challenged the
City's standing to file a complaint for administrative
review. The City appeals.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 Defendant-appellee, Brooks, began working for the City of
Peoria Fire Department (Department) in 1991. He began as a
firefighter but eventually earned the title of engineer. On
July 16, 2015, Brooks participated in a "collapsed
house" exercise at the City of Peoria Fire Training
Academy. The exercise involved diminished visibility,
confined spaces, scattered debris, low profile techniques,
and other obstacles. Brooks was extracted from the exercise
after injuring his right knee. He was transported to OSF St.
Francis Medical Center.
4 On January 19, 2016, Brooks submitted a line of duty
disability application to defendant- appellee, the Pension
Board. Brooks applied for a line of duty disability pension
on the grounds that, due to the injury sustained during the
July 16, 2015, "collapsed house" exercise, he
needed a right knee replacement. The application indicated
that, during the exercise, Brooks "felt a wall and
pushed off *** with [his] right leg ***
[and] immediately felt intense pain." Due to this
injury, Brooks stated he could no longer perform his duties
at the Department.
5 The Pension Board received initial reports prepared by
three board certified orthopedic surgeons who, under section
4-112 of the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/4-112 (West
2014)) performed independent medical examinations of Brooks.
In preparation for their independent medical examinations,
the surgeons reviewed Brooks's medical and employment
6 Dr. Joshua M. Alpert examined Brooks on February 9, 2016,
and submitted a report to the Pension Board on February 22,
2016. In his report, Dr. Alpert stated Brooks "suffered
from a preexisting right knee osteoarthritis," which was
"exacerbated during his work-related strain
injury." The report stated Brooks's "disability
related to his right knee osteoarthritis [wa]s not related to
the work incident," but his "symptoms ***
regarding inflammation and pain in his right knee were the
result of his work injury." The "disability, in
[Dr. Alpert's] opinion, was the result of some
aggravation of the pre-existing right knee
osteoarthritis." Brooks was "unable to ***
perform his job as outlined in the job description."
7 Dr. Michael S. Lewis examined Brooks on February 12, 2016,
and submitted his report to the Pension Board on February 22,
2016. Dr. Lewis diagnosed Brooks with "degenerative
arthritis and osteochondromatosis of the right knee."
Thus, "Brooks [wa]s unable to perform his regular daily
tasks as a firefighter." Dr. Lewis opined that
Brooks' disability was permanent. In Dr. Lewis's
opinion, "the alleged disability [wa]s not a direct
result of the incident which occurred on July 16, 2015."
"Brooks had a long previous history of severe
degenerative arthritis of the right knee prior to [that]
alleged injury." Though the July 16, 2015, incident
temporarily exacerbated Brooks' preexisting condition,
"his disability and symptoms [we]re caused by his
pre-existing condition and unrelated to any employment
8 Dr. James B. Stiehl examined Brooks on February 18, 2016,
and submitted his report to the Pension Board on February 26,
2016. Dr. Stiehl stated Brooks had "advanced
degenerative arthritis of his right knee and ***
several significant osteochromatosis formations that
*** clearly pre-exist the injury of July 16,
2015." As "degenerative and permanent
disabilities," these conditions would "persist into
the future and cannot be corrected." Dr. Stiehl believed
"the alleged disability [wa]s within all medical
probability not a direct result of the incident which
occurred on July 16, 2015." Dr. Stiehl stated "the
disability [wa]s solely caused by a pre-existing condition
that appears to be unrelated to any employment
activities." At the time of the report, Brooks was
"clearly disabled *** and clearly ***
could not perform his job as a firefighter."
9 On March 9, 2016, plaintiff-appellant, the City, filed a
petition to intervene in the Pension Board's proceedings
for purposes of submitting evidence and cross-examining
Brooks. The City argued it had an interest in the Pension
Board's proceedings because Brooks's receipt of a
line of duty disability pension would impact his future
claims and the City's liability under the Public Safety
Employee Benefits Act (Benefits Act) (820 ILCS 320/1 et
seq. (West 2014)). The City also argued it had an