BBP wins Supreme Court pension fund case

In a case argued by Burke Burns & Pinelli, Ltd., the Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday reversed an appellate court ruling that would have awarded a potential $1.8 million in enhanced pension benefits to certain widows of deceased Chicago firefighters without requiring them to pay any corresponding contribution.

The case, Daniel Hooker, et al., v. Retirement Board of the Firemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, 2013 IL 114811 (2013), involved claims by two firefighter widows that the Retirement Board should have included duty availability pay ("DAP") in the current salary attached to the deceased husbands' positions in calculating the widows' annuities under the Pension Code. The Illinois Appellate Court, First District, had ruled unanimously in favor of the widows, reversing a trial court decision that had granted the Retirement Board (the "Board") summary judgment on administrative review while denying class certification of all similarly situated widows. 2012 IL App (1st) 111625.

Noting the potential serious financial impact of the appellate court's decision on the Fund and its participants, the Board, with the assistance of BBP, sought review in the Illinois Supreme Court. The high court agreed last November to take the case.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and affirmed the trial court's original decision that the operable provision of the Pension Code, Section 6-111, did not require that DAP be included in calculating pensions even in cases where corresponding contributions had not been paid.

In oral arguments last spring, BBP partner Vincent D. Pinelli argued that the appellate court's decision, if left standing, would leave the already-strained Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund with an additional $1.8 million in unfunded liability, thereby threatening its ability to meet future obligations to all its other participants and beneficiaries.

For a copy of the Illinois Supreme Court decision, click here Hooker_v_FABF.pdf (106 KB)

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