Attorney sees Illinois courts inflating awards in some pension claims
Findings by Carolyn Ettelson Klein, an attorney with Chicago-based Keefe, Campbell, Biery and Associates, show that Illinois courts are likely to award firefighters the highest possible amounts in some pension claims.
Ettelson Klein in a posting on WorkCompCentral, cited a recent Illinois court decision involving the Moline Firefighters’ Pension Fund that resulted in a firefighter's compensation for a line-of-duty disability pension being measured at the high-water point of his career – calculations based on the salary he was receiving just prior to leaving the department rather what he was paid at the time he began receiving disability pay, along with considering other payment increases that seem to be chronologically questionable.
Ettelson Klein also reports the plaintiff in this case received a lump sum payment that valued unused vacation time.
In describing a convoluted process, Ettelson Klein referred to hearings held to reconsider initial rulings and testimony regarding the plaintiff's annual salary.
Laws such as the public employee disability act, Ettelson Klein said, were instructive in determining the final pension award.
Ettelson Klein also cited a general wage increase for firefighters in January 2014 and said a “liberal interpretation of the payroll clause” led courts to increase the amount of monies due to the plaintiff.
“It should be noted that in calculating disability pension benefits based upon the 'rank-attached' salary at the time an employee is removed from payroll may result in an exponential increase to malingering petitioners” Ettelson Klein wrote in findings on the case. “As defense attorneys, we should be cognizant of the motivation this creates for city employees not to settle their claims and extend them to get more money. We should consider the possible perspective of the petitioner – a salary raise is next week, next month (possibly sooner), so if they can hold off settlement and remain (pending) a little longer, disability pension benefits will be based upon 65 percent of a higher salary.”