Injured former C’ville cop wins health insurance suit
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org September 10, 2012 5:12PM
Updated: October 12, 2012 6:10AM
CARPENTERSVILLE — Former police Officer Joseph Cecala recently won his lawsuit against the village, its manager Mark Rooney, and village human resources director Linda Mogren for health insurance benefits for himself and his family that he felt were owed him under Illinois law.
Judge Thomas Mueller of 16th Judicial Circuit Court ruled that Carpentersville must provide Cecala and his family health insurance benefits and reimburse him $4,240 for premiums he has been paying since Jan. 1, 2011.
Cecala was injured Dec. 29, 2008, while on duty at the scene of an accident at Route 31 and Spruce Road. According to Cecala’s lawsuit, a driver had knocked down a tree that led to a traffic signal falling onto Route 31.
Believing the situation to be an emergency and that, due to the hour, no help would come to remove the signal, Cecala and another officer moved the signal off the road. In the process, Cecala injured his back in what the lawsuit calls a “catastrophic injury.”
In November 2010, Cecala, the married father of two children, was awarded an in-the-line-of-duty disability pension that went into effect that December. That month, he applied to the village for health insurance benefits he felt were his under the state’s Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA).
The act states that if a police officer suffers a catastrophic injury or is killed in the line of duty, his employer must pay the entire premium of the employer’s health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured employee’s spouse, and for each dependent child until the child reaches the “age of majority” or until the end of the calendar year in which the child turns 25 if the child continues to be a dependent.
The lawsuit included a copy of a letter from Mogren to Cecala’s attorney, Ryan Theriault, from Dec. 9, 2010, saying Cecala did not qualify for benefits under PSEBA. The court saw otherwise and, pending any appeal from the village, Cecala will be covered.
“Although we are pleased with the outcome and the judge’s decision, it is disappointing that taxpayer funds had to be used to deny a disabled police officer his rightful health insurance benefits,” said Theriault, who is with the law firm Foote, Meyers, Mielke and Flowers in St. Charles.
Village officials did not respond to a request for comment.