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Appellate Court Affirms Police Pension Board Denial of Line of Duty Benefits for Physical Fitness Testing Injury.

January 14th, 2016

Swoboda v. Bd. of Trustees of the Village of Sugar Grove Police Pension Fund, 2015 IL App (2nd) 150265


The Second District Appellate Court recently issued a decision, which affirmed the Circuit Court’s affirmance of the pension board’s determination to deny line of duty benefits to an officer who suffered a disabling injury during physical fitness testing.


The Board of Trustees of the Village of Sugar Grove Police Pension Fund of (“Board”) reached a decision to deny the application for line of duty benefits of Officer Thomas Swobota who suffered a disabling injury to his shoulder during physical fitness testing.  Swobota was attempting to bench press approximately 200 pounds when he injured his shoulder.  The department physical fitness testing only required officers to bench press 75% of their body weight, up to a maximum of 175 pounds, or do 30 push-ups consecutively.


The Pension Board determined, Swoboda was not injured performing an “act of duty,” as defined by Section 5/5-113 of the Pension Code.  The Appellate Court confirmed an act of duty requires an officer to be performing an act which involves either a “special risk” or be “imposed by statute, ordinance, or police regulation.”  The Pension Board made no finding as to whether the physical fitness testing was “an act imposed by statute, ordinance, or police regulation.”  Instead, the Pension Board found the bench press exercise did not constitute  a special risk no ordinarily assumed by a citizen in the ordinary walks of life.


The Appellate Court agreed with the Pension Board’s finding the many civilians in all walks of life routinely exercise and lift weights for work or personal reasons.  The Appellate Court noted, “Citizens in ordinary walks of life engage in weightlifting.  Whether they do so occupationally or recreationally is of no moment.  The risk of sustaining a weightlifting injury is not a ‘special risk.’”


Reimer & Dobrovolny represented the pension board in this matter.